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AFTER LONDON 

OR 

WILD ENGLAND 



THE READERS' LIBRARY 

A Series of Copyright Volumes of individual merit 
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AFTER LONDON 



OR 



WILD ENGLAND 









RICHARD JEFFERIES. 

AUTHOR OF 

"THE GAMEKEEPER AT HOME," "WOOD MAGIC," " BEVIS,' 

"AMARYLLIS AT THE FAIR," ETC. 




LONDON 

DUCKWORTH & CO. 

HENRIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN 



Reprinted, igos 

Reprinted/or Readers Library, i^rx 



A II Rights Reserven 



CONTENTS 



PART I. 
THE RELAPSE INTO BARBARISM. 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. THE GREAT FOREST - . _ _ i 

II. WILD ANIMALS - - - - - I3 

III. MEN OF THE WOODS - - - - I9 

IV. THE INVADERS - - - - - 3Z 

T. THE LAKE - - - - - 4.5 

PART II. 

WILD ENGLAND. 

I. SIR FELIX - - - - ~ 5^ 

11. THE HOUSE OF AQUILA - - - - 67 

III. THE STOCKADE - - - - "77 

IV. THE CANOE - - - - -87 

V. BARON AQUILA - - - - - 96 

VI. THE FOREST TRACK - - - - I06 

VII. THE FOREST TRACK {continued) - - - II 7 

VIII. THYMA CASTLE - - - - -I25 

IX. SUPERSTITIONS - - - - - 1 36 

X. THB FEAST - - - - - 1 4.6 
V - 



vi CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAG8 

XI. AURORA - - - • " *5 + 

XII. NIGHT IN THE FOREST - - • - l6o 

XIII. SAILING AWAY - - - • - 1 69 

XIV. THE STRAITS - - - • - 1 78 
XV. SAILING ONWARDS - - » - 1 86 

XVI. THE CITY - - - - - 194. 

XVII. THE CAMP ----- 203 

XVIII. THE king's levy - - - - 2I4. 
XIX. FIGHTING - - - - -222 

XX. IN DANGER - - - - - ^3^ 

XXI. A VOYAGE _--..- 242 
XXII. DISCOVERIES - - - - -252 

- - - - 261 

- 268 

- 276 

- 286 
XXVII. SURPRISED ----- 293 

7XVIII. FOR AURORA ----- 3O2 



XXIII. STRANCE THINGS 

XXIV. FIERY VAPOURS 

XXV. THE SHEPHERDS 

XXVI. BOW AND ARROW 



AFTER LONDON. 

PART I. 

THE RELAPSE INTO BARBARISM. 

CHAPTER I. 
THE GREAT FOREST. 

The old men say their fathers told them that soon after 
the fields were left to themselves a change began to be 
visible. It became green everywhere in the first spring, 
after London ended, so that all the country looked alike. 

The meadows were green, and so was the rising wheat 
which had been sown, but which neither had nor would 
receive any further care. Such arable fields as had not 
been sown, but where the last stubble had been ploughed 
up, were overrun with couch-grass, and where the short 
stubble had not been ploughed, the weeds hid it. So that 
there was no place which was not more or less green ; 
the footpaths were the greenest of all, for such is the 
nature of grass where it has once been trodden on, and 
by-and-by, as the summer came on, the former roads 

I 



2 AFTER LONDON 

were thinly covered with the grass that had spread out 
from the margin. 

In the autumn, as the meadows were not mown, the 
grass withered as it stood, falling this way and that, as 
the wind had blown it ; the seeds dropped, and the 
bennets became a greyish-white, or, where the docks 
and sorrel were thick, a brownish-red. The wheat, after 
it had ripened, there being no one to reap it, also re- 
mained standing, and was eaten by clouds of sparrows, 
rooks, and pigeons, which flocked to it and were undis- 
turbed, feasting at their pleasure. As the winter came 
on, the crops were beaten down by the storms, soaked 
with the rain, and trodden upon by herds of animals. 

Next summer the prostrate straw of the preceding year 
was concealed by the young green wheat and barley that 
sprang up from the grain sown by dropping from the 
ears, and by quantities of docks, thistles, oxeye daisies, 
and similar plants. This matted mass grew up through 
the bleached straw. Charlock, too, hid the rotting roots 
m the fields under a blaze of yellow flower. The young 
spring meadow-grass could scarcely push its way up 
through the long dead grass and bennets of the year 
previous, but docks and thistles, sorrel, wild carrots, and 
nettles, found no such diflSiculty. 

Footpaths were concealed by the second year, but 
roads could be traced, though as green as the sward, and 
were still the best for walking, because the tangled wheat 
and weeds, and, in the meadows, the long grass, caught 
the feet of those who tried to pass through. Year by 



THE GREAT FOREST 3 

year the original crops of wheat, barley, oats, and beans 
asserted their presence by shooting up, but in gradually 
diminished force, as nettles and coarser plants, such as the 
wild parsnips, spread out into the fields from the ditches 
and choked them. 

Aquatic grasses from the furrows and water-carriers 
extended in the meadows, and, with the rushes, helped 
to destroy or take the place of the former sweet herbage. 
Meanwhile the brambles, which grew very fast, had 
pushed forward their prickly runners farther and farther 
from the hedges till they had now reached ten or fifteen 
yards. The briars had followed, and the hedges had 
widened to three or four times their first breadth, the 
fields being equally contracted. Starting from all sides at 
once, these brambles and briars in the course of about 
twenty years met in the centre of the largest fields. 

Hawthorn bushes sprang up among them, and, pro- 
tected by the briars and thorns from grazing animals, the 
suckers of elm-trees rose and flourished. Sapling asheSj 
oaks, sycamores, and horse-chestnuts, lifted their heads. 
Of old time the cattle would have eaten off the seed 
leaves with the grass so soon as they were out of the 
ground, but now most of the acorns that were dropped 
by birds, and the keys that were wafted by the wind, 
twirling as they floated, took root and grew into trees. 
By this time the brambles and briars had choked up and 
blocked the former roads, which were as impassable as 
the fields. 

No fields, indeed, remained, for where the ground was 

I — 2 



4 AFTER LONDON 

dry, the thorns, briars, brambles, and saplings already 
mentioned filled the space, and these thickets and the 
young trees had converted most part of the country into 
an immense forest. Where the ground was naturally 
moist, and the drains had become choked with willow 
roots, which, when confined in tubes, grow into a mass 
like the brush of a fox, sedges and flags and rushes 
covered it. Thorn bushes were there too, but not so 
tall ; they were hung with lichen. Besides the flags and 
reeds, vast quantities of the tallest cow-parsnips or " gicks " 
rose five or six feet high, and the willow herb with its 
stout stem, almost as woody as a shrub, filled every 
approach. 

By the thirtieth year there was not one single open 
place, the hills only excepted, where a man could walk, 
unless he followed the tracks of wild creatures or cut 
himself a path. The ditches, of course, had long since 
become full of leaves and dead branches, so that the 
water which should have run off down them stagnated, 
and presently spread out into the hollow places and 
by the corners of what had once been fields, forming 
marshes where the horsetails, flags, and sedges hid the 
water. 

As no care was taken with the brooks, the hatches upon 
them gradually rotted, and the force of the winter rains 
carried away the weak timbers, flooding the lower grounds, 
which became swamps of larger size. The dams, too, 
were drilled by water-rats, and the streams percolating 
through, slowly increased the size of these tunnels till the 



THE GREAT FOREST 5 

structure burst, and the current swept on and added to 
the floods below. Mill-dams stood longer, but, as the 
ponds silted up, the current flowed round and even 
through the mill-houses, which, going by degrees to ruin, 
were in some cases undermined till they fell. 

Everywhere the lower lands adjacent to the streams had 
become marshes, some of them extending for miles in a 
winding line, and occasionally spreading out to a mile in 
breadth. This was particularly the case where brooks 
and streams of some volume joined the rivers, which were 
also blocked and obstructed in their turn, and the two, 
overflowing, covered the country around ; for the rivers 
brought down trees and branches, timbers floated from the 
shore, and all kinds of similar materials, which grounded 
in the shallows or caught against snags, and formed huge 
piles where there had been weirs. 

Sometimes, after great rains, these piles swept away the 
timbers of the weir, driven by the irresistible power of 
the water, and then in its course the flood, carrying the 
balks before it like battering rams, cracked and split the 
bridges of solid stone which the ancients had built. 
These and the iron bridges likewise were overthrown, and 
presently quite disappeared, for the very foundations were 
covered with the sand and gravel silted up. 

Thus, too, the sites of many villages and towns that 
anciently existed along the rivers, or on the lower lands 
adjoining, were concealed by the water and the mud it 
brought with it. The sedges and reeds that arose 
completed the work and left nothing visible, so that the 



6 AFTER LONDON 

mighty buildings of olden days were by these means 
utterly buried. And, as has been proved by those who 
have dug for treasures, in our time the very foundations 
are deep beneath the earth, and not to be got at for the 
water that oozes into the shafts that they have tried to 
sink through the sand and mud-banks. 

From an elevation, therefore, there was nothing visible 
but endless forest and marsh. On the level ground and 
plains the view was limited to a short distance, because of 
the thickets and the saplings which had now become 
young trees. The downs only were still partially open, 
yet it was not convenient to walk upon them except in 
the tracks of animals, because of the long grass which, 
being no more regularly grazed upon by sheep, as was 
once the case, grew thick and tangled. Furze, too, and 
heath covered the slopes, and in places vast quantities of 
fern. There had always been copses of fir and beech 
and nut-tree covers, and these increased and spread, 
while bramble, briar, and hawthorn extended around 
them. 

By degrees the trees of the vale seemed as it were to 
invade and march up the hills, and, as we see in our time, 
in many places the downs are hidden altogether with a 
stunted kind of forest. But all the above happened in 
the time of the first generation. Besides these things a 
great physical change took place ; but, before I speak of 
that, it will be best to relate what effects were produced 
upon animals and men. 

In the first years after the fields were left to themselves, 



THE GREAT FOREST 7 

the feUen and over-ripe corn crops became the resort of 
innumerable mice. They swarmed to an incredible 
degree, not only devouring the grain upon the straw that 
had never been cut, but clearing out every single ear in 
the wheat-ricks that were standing about the country. 
Nothing remained in these ricks but straw, pierced with 
tunnels and runs, the home and breeding-place of mice, 
which thence poured forth into the fields. Such grain as 
had been left in barns and granaries, in mills, and in 
warehouses of the deserted towns, disappeared in the same 
manner. 

When men tried to raise crops in small gardens and 
enclosures for their sustenance, these legions of mice 
rushed in and destroyed the produce of their labour. 
Nothing could keep them out, and if a score were killed, 
a hundred more supplied their place. These mice were 
preyed upon by kestrel hawks, owls, and weasels ; but at 
first they made little or no appreciable difference. In a 
few years, however, the weasels, having such a super- 
abundance of food, trebled in numbers, and in the same 
way the hawks, owls, and foxes increased. There was 
then some relief, but even now at intervals districts are 
invaded, and the granaries and the standing corn suffer 
from these depredations. 

This does not happen every year, but only at intervals, 
for it is noticed that mice abound very much more in 
some seasons than others. The extraordinary multiplica- 
tion of these creatures was the means of providing food 
for the cats that had been abandoned in the towns, and came 



8 AFTER LONDON 

forth into the country in droves. Feeding on the mice, 
they became, in a very short time, quite wild, and their 
descendants now roam the forests. 

In our houses we still have several varieties of the 
domestic cat, such as the tortoise-shell, which is the most 
prized, but when the above-mentioned cats became wild, 
after a while the several varieties disappeared, and left but 
one wild kind. Those which are now so often seen 
in the forest, and which do so much mischief about 
houses and enclosures, are almost all greyish, some being 
striped, and they are also much longer in the body than 
the tame. A few are jet black ; their skins are then 
preferred by hunters. 

Though the forest cat retires from the sight of man as 
much as possible, yet it is extremely fierce in defence of 
its young, and instances have been known where travellers 
in the woods have been attacked upon unwittingly 
approaching their dens. Dropping from the boughs of a 
tree upon the shoulders, the creature flies at the face, 
inflicting deep scratches and bites, exceedingly painful, 
and sometimes dangerous, from the tendency to fester. 
But such cases are rare, and the reason the forest cat is 
so detested is because it preys upon fowls and poultry, 
mounting with ease the trees or places where they 
roost. 

Almost worse than the mice were the rats, which 
came out of the old cities in such vast numbers that the 
people who survived and saw them are related to have 
fled in fear. This terror, however, did not last so long as 



THE GREAT FOREST 9 

the evil of the mice, for the rats, probably not finding 
sufficient food when together, scattered abroad, and were 
destroyed singly by the cats and dogs, who slew them by 
thousands, far more than they could afterwards eat, so 
that the carcases were left to decay. It is said that, 
overcome with hunger, these armies of rats in some cases 
fell upon each other, and fed on their own kindred. They 
are still numerous, but do not appear to do the same 
amount of damage as is occasionally caused by the mice, 
when the latter invade the cultivated lands. 

The dogs, of course, like the cats, were forced by 
starvation into the fields, where they perished in incredible 
numbers. Of many species of dogs which are stated to 
have been plentiful among the ancients, we have now 
nothing but the name. The poodle is extinct, the 
Maltese terrier, the Pomeranian, the Italian grey- 
hound, and, it is believed, great numbers of crosses and 
mongrels have utterly disappeared. There was none to 
feed them, and they could not find food for themselves, nor 
could they stand the rigour of the winter when exposed 
to the frost in the open air. 

Some kinds, more hardy and fitted by nature for the 
chase, became wild, and their descendants are now found 
in the woods. Of these, there are three sorts which keep 
apart from each other, and are thought not to inter- 
breed. The most numerous are the black. The black 
wood-dog is short and stoutly made, with shaggy hair, 
sometimes marked with white patches. 

There can be no doubt that it is the descendant of the 



lo AFTER LONDON 

ancient sheep-dog, for it is known that the sheep-dog was 
of that character, and it is said that those who used to 
keep sheep soon found their dogs abandon the fold, and 
join the wild troops that fell upon the sheep. The black 
wood-dogs hunt in packs of ten or more (as many as forty 
have been counted), and are the pest of the farmer, for, 
unless his flocks are protected at night within stockades or 
enclosures, they are certain to be attacked. Not satisfied 
with killing enough to appease hunger, these dogs tear and 
mangle for sheer delight of blood, and will destroy twenty 
times as many as they can eat, leaving the miserably torn 
carcases on the field. Nor are the sheep always safe by 
day if the wood-dogs happen to be hungr)^'. The shepherd 
is, therefore, usually accompanied by two or three mastiffs, 
of whose great size and strength the others stand in awe. 
At night, and when in large packs, starving in the snow, 
not even the mastiffs can check them. 

No wood-dog, of any kind, has ever been known to 
attack man, and the hunter in the forest hears their bark 
in every direction without fear. It is, nevertheless, best 
to retire out of their way when charging sheep in packs, 
for they then seem seized with a blind fiiry, and some 
who have endeavoured to fight them have been thrown 
down and seriously mauled. But this has been in the 
blindness of their rush ; no instance has ever been known 
of their purposely attacking man. 

These black wood-dogs will also chase and finally pull 
down cattle, if they can get within the enclosures, and 
even horses have fallen victims to their untiring thirst for 



THE GREAT FOREST ii 

blood. Not even the wild cattle can always escape, despite 
their strength, and they have been known to run down 
stags, though not their usual quarry. 

The next kind of wild wood-dog is the yellow, a smaller 
animal, with smooth hair inclining to a yellow colour, 
which lives principally upon game, chasing all, from the 
hare to the stag. It is as swift, or nearly as swift, as the 
greyhound, and possesses greater endurance. In coursing 
the hare, it not uncommonly happens that these dogs start 
from the brake and take the hare, when nearly exhausted, 
from the hunter's hounds. They will in the same way 
follow a stag, which has been almost run down by the 
hunters, and bring him to bay, though in this case they 
lose their booty, dispersing through fear of man, when the 
hunters come up in a body. 

But such is their love of the chase, that they are known 
to assemble from their lairs at the distant sound of the 
horn, and, as the hunters ride through the woods, they 
often see the yellow dogs flitting along side by side with 
them through bush and fern. These animals sometimes 
hunt singly, sometimes in couples, and as the season 
advances, and winter approaches, in packs of eight or 
twelve. They never attack sheep or cattle, and avoid 
man, except when they perceive he is engaged in the 
chase. There is little doubt that they are the descendants 
of the dogs which the ancients called lurchers, crossed, 
perhaps, with the greyhound, and possibly other breeds. 
When the various species of dogs were thrown on their 
own resources, those only withstood the exposure and 



12 AFTER LONDON 

hardships which were naturally hardy, and possessed 
natural aptitude for the chase. 

The third species of wood-dog is the white. They are 
low on the legs, of a dingy white colour, and much 
smaller than the other two. They neither attack cattle 
nor game, though fond of hunting rabbits. This dog is, 
in fact, a scavenger, living upon the carcases of dead 
sheep and animals, which are found picked clean in the 
night. For this purpose it haunts the neighbourhood of 
habitations, and prowls in the evening over heaps of refuse, 
scampering away at the least alarm, for it is extremely 
timid. 

It is perfectly harmless, for even the poultry do not 
dread it, and it will not face a tame cat, if by chance the 
two meet. It is rarely met with far from habitations, 
though it will accompany an army on the march. It may 
be said to remain in one district. The black and yellow 
dogs, on the contrary, roam about the forest without 
apparent home. One day the hunter sees signs of their 
presence, and perhaps may, for a month afterwards, not 
so much as hear a bark. 

This uncertainty in the case of the black dog is the 
bane of the shepherds; for, not seeing or hearing any- 
thing of the enemy for months together, in spite of former 
experience their vigilance relaxes, and suddenly, while they 
sleep, their flocks are scattered. We still have, among 
tame dogs, the mastiff, terrier, spaniel, deer-hound, and 
greyhound, all of which are as faithful to man as ever. 



WILD ANIMALS 13 

CHAPTER IL 

WILD ANIMALS. 

When the ancients departed, great numbers of their 
cattle perished. It was not so much the want of food as 
the inability to endure exposure that caused their death ; 
a few winters are related to have so reduced them that 
they died by hundreds, many mangled by dogs. The 
hardiest that remained became perfectly wild, and the 
wood cattle are now more difficult to approach than deer. 

There are two kinds, the white and the black. The 
white (sometimes dun) are believed to be the survivors 
of the domestic roan-and- white, for the cattle in our 
enclosures at the present day are of that colour. The 
black are smaller, and are doubtless little changed from 
their state in the olden times, except that they are wild. 
These latter are timid, unless when accompanied by a 
calf, and are rarely known to turn upon their pursuers. 
But the white are fierce at all times; they will not, 
indeed, attack man, but will scarcely run from him, and 
it is not always safe to cross their haunts. 

The bulls are savage beyond measure at certain seasons 
of the year. If they see men at a distance, they retire ; 
if they come unexpectedly face to face, they attack. 
This characteristic enables those who travel through 
districts known to be haunted by white cattle to provide 
against an encounter, for, by occasionally blowing a horn, 
the herd that may be in the vicinity is dispersed. There 



14 AFTER LONDON 

are not often more than twenty in a herd. The hides of 
the dun are highly prized, both for their intrinsic value, 
and as proofs of skill and courage, so much so that you 
shall hardly buy a skin for all the money you may offer ; 
and the horns are likewise trophies. The white or dun 
bull is the monarch of our forests. 

Four kinds of wild pigs are found. The most numerous, 
or at least the most often seen, as it lies about our en- 
closures, is the common thorn-hog. It is the largest of 
the wild pigs, long-bodied and flat-sided, in colour much 
the hue of the mud in which it wallows. To the a2;ri- 
culturist it is the greatest pest, destroying or damaging all 
kinds of crops, and routing up the gardens. It is with 
diflSculty kept out by palisading, for if there be a weak 
place in the wooden framework, the strong snout of the 
animal is sure to undermine and work a passage through. 

As there are always so many of these pigs round about 
inhabited places and cultivated fields, constant care is 
required, for they instantly discover an opening. From 
their habit of haunting the thickets and bush which come 
up to the verge of the enclosures, they have obtained the 
name of thorn-hogs. Some reach an immense size, and 
they are very prolific, so that it is impossible to destroy 
them. The boars are fierce at a particular season, but 
never attack unless provoked to do so. But when driven 
to bay they are the most dangerous of the boars, on 
account of their vast size and weight. They are of a 
sluggish disposition, and will not rise from their lairs 
unless forced to do so. 



WILD ANIMALS 15 

The next kind is the white hog, which has much the 
same habits as the former except that it is usually found 
in moist places, near lakes and rivers, and is often called 
the marsh-pig. The third kind is perfectly black, much 
smaller in size, and very active, affording by far the best 
sport, and also the best food when killed. As they are 
found on the hills where the ground is somewhat more 
open, horses can follow freely, and the chase becomes 
exciting. By some it is called the hill-hog, from the 
locality it frequents. The small tusks of the black boar 
are used for many ornamental purposes. 

These three species are considered to be the descendants 
of the various domestic pigs of the ancients, but the 
fourth, or grey, is thought to be the true wild boar. It is 
seldom seen, but is most common in the south-western 
forests, where, from the quantity of fern, it is called the 
fern-pig. This kind is believed to represent the true wild 
boar, which was extinct, or merged in the domestic hog 
among the ancients, except in that neighbourhood where 
the strain remained. 

With wild times, the wild habits have returned, and 
the grey boar is at once the most difficult of access, and 
the most ready to encounter either dogs or men. 
Although the first, or thorn-hog, does the most damage 
to the agriculturist because of its numbers, and its habit of 
haunting the neighbourhood of enclosures, the others 
are equally injurious if they chance to enter the cultivated 
fields. 

The three principal kinds of wild sheep are the horned^ 



i6 AFTER LONDON 

the thyme, and the meadow. The thyme sheep are the 
smallest, and haunt the highest hills in the south, where, 
feeding on the sweet herbage of the ridges, their flesh is 
said to acquire a flavour of wild thyme. They move in 
small flocks of not more than thirty, and are the most 
difficult to approach, being far more wary than deer, so 
continuously are they hunted by the wood-dogs. The 
horned are larger, and move in greater numbers; as 
many as two hundred are sometimes seen together. 

They are found on the lower slopes and plains, and in 
the woods. The meadow sheep have long shaggy wool, 
which is made into various articles of clothing, but they 
are not numerous. They haunt river sides, and the 
shores of lakes and ponds. None of these are easily got 
at, on account of the wood-dogs ; but the rams of the 
horned kind are reputed to sometimes turn upon the 
pursuing pack, and butt them to death. In the extremity 
of their terror whole flocks of wild sheep have been driven 
over precipices and into quagmires and torrents. 

Besides these, there are several other species whose 
haunt is local. On the islands, especially, different 
kinds are found. The wood-dogs will occasionally, in 
calm weather, swim out to an island and kill every 
sheep upon it. 

From the horses that were in use among the ancients 
the two wild species now found are known to have 
descended, a fact confirmed by their evident resemblance 
to the horses we still retain. The largest wild horse 
is almost black, or inclined to a dark colour, somewhat 



WILD ANIMALS 17 

less in size than our present waggon horses, but of the 
same heavy make. It is, however, much swifter, on 
account of having enjoyed liberty for so long. It is 
called the bush-horse, being generally distributed among 
thickets and meadow-like lands adjoining water. 

The other species is called the hill-pony, from its 
habitat, the hills, and is rather less in size than our riding- 
horse. This latter is short and thick-set, so much so as not 
to be easily ridden by short persons without high stirrups. 
Neither of these wild horses are numerous, but neither 
are they uncommon. They keep entirely separate from 
each other. As many as thirty mares are sometimes seen 
together, but there are districts where the traveller will 
not observe one for weeks. 

Tradition says that in the olden times there were 
horses of a slender build whose speed outstripped the 
wind, but of the breed of these famous racers not one is 
left. Whether they were too delicate to withstand ex- 
posure, or whether the wild dogs hunted them down is 
uncertain, but they are quite gone. Did but one exist, 
how eagerly it would be sought out, for in these days it 
would be worth its weight in gold, unless, indeed, as 
some affirm, such speed only endured for a mile or two. 

It is not necessary, having written thus far of the 
animals, that anything should be said of the birds of the 
woods, which everyone knows were not always wild, 
and which can, indeed, be compared with such poultry 
as are kept in our enclosures. Such are the bush-hens, 
the wood-turkeys, the gallinae, the peacocks, the white 

2 



i8 AFTER LONDON 

duck and white goose, all of which, though now wild as 
the hawk, are well known to have been once tame. 

There were deer, red and fallow, in numerous parks 
and chases of very old time, and these, having got loose, 
and having such immense tracts to roam over unmolested, 
went on increasing till now they are beyond computation, 
and I have myself seen a thousand head together. Within 
these forty years, as I learn, the roe-deer, too, have come 
down from the extreme north, so that there are now 
three sorts in the woods. Before them the pine-marten 
came from the same direction, and, though they are not 
yet common, it is believed they are increasing. For the 
first few years after the change took place there seemed 
a danger lest the foreign wild beasts that had been con- 
fined as curiosities in menageries should multiply and 
remain in the woods. But this did not happen. 

Some few lions and tigers, bears, and other animals did 
indeed escape, together with many less furious creatures, 
and it is related that they roamed about the fields for a 
long time. They were seldom met with, having such 
an extent of country to wander over, and after a while 
entirely disappeared. If any progeny were born, the 
winter frosts must have destroyed it, and the same fate 
awaited the monstrous serpents which had been collected 
for exhibition. Only one animal now exists which is 
known to owe its origin to those which escaped from 
the dens of the ancients. It is the beaver, whose dams 
are now occasionally found upon the streams by those 
who traverse the woods. Some of the aquatic birds. 



MEN OF THE WOODS 19 

too, which frequent the lakes, are thought to have been 
originally derived from those which were formerly kept 
as curiosities. 

In the castle yard at Longtover may still be seen the 
bones of an elephant which was found dying in the 
woods near that spot. 



CHAPTER III. 

MEN OF THE WOODS. 

So far as this, all that I have stated has been clear, and 
there can be no doubt that what has been thus handed 
down from mouth to mouth is for the most part correct. 
When I pass from trees and animals to men, how;ever, 
the thing is different, for nothing is certain and every- 
thing confused. None of the accounts agree, nor can 
they be altogether reconciled with present facts or with 
reasonable supposition ; yet it is not so long since but a 
few memories, added one to the other, can bridge the 
time, and, though not many, there are some written notes 
still to be found. I must attribute the discrepancy to the 
wars and hatreds which sprang up and divided the people, 
so that one would not listen to what the others wished to 
say, and the truth was lost. 

Besides which, in the conflagrations which consumed 
the towns, most of the records were destroyed, and are 
no longer to be referred to. And it may be that even 
when they were proceeding, the causes of the changes 

2 — 2 



20 AFTER LONDON 

were not understood. Therefore, what I am now about 
to describe is not to be regarded as the ultimate truth, but 
as the nearest to which I could attain after comparing the 
various traditions. Some say, then, that the first begin- 
ning of the change was because the sea silted up the 
entrances to the ancient ports, and stopped the vast 
commerce which was once carried on. It is certainly- 
true that many of the ports are silted up, and are now 
useless as such, but whether the silting up preceded the 
disappearance of the population, or whether the disappear- 
ance of the population and the consequent neglect caused 
the silting, I cannot venture to positively assert. 

For there are signs that the level of the sea has sunk iir 
some places, and signs that it has become higher in others, 
so that the judicious historian will simply state the facts, 
and refrain from colouring them with his own theory as 
Silvester has done. Others again maintain that the supply 
of food from over the ocean suddenly stopping caused 
great disorders, and that the people crowded on board all 
the ships to escape starvation, and sailed away, and were 
no more heard of. 

It has, too, been said that the earth, from some attractive 
power exercised by the passage of an enormous dark body 
through space, became tilted or inclined to its orbit more 
than before, and that this, while it lasted, altered the flow 
of the magnetic currents, which, in an imperceptible 
manner, influence the minds of men. Hitherto the stream 
of human life had directed itself to the westward, but 
when this reversal of magnetism occurred, a general desire 



MEN OF THE WOODS 21 

arose to return to the east. And those whose business is 
theology have pointed out that the wickedness of those 
times surpassed understanding, and that a change and 
sweeping away of the human evil that had accumulated 
was necessary, and was effected by supernatural means. 
The relation of this must be left to them, since it is not 
the province of the philosopher to meddle with such 
matters. 

All that seems certain is, that when the event took 
place, the immense crowds collected in cities were most 
affected, and that the richer and upper classes made use of 
their money to escape. Those left behind were mainly 
the lower and most ignorant, so far as the arts were 
concerned ; those that dwelt in distant and outlying 
places ; and those who lived by agriculture. These last, 
at that date, had fallen to such distress that they could not 
hire vessels to transport themselves. The exact number 
of those left behind cannot, of course, be told, but it is on 
record that when the fields were first left neglected (as I 
have already described), a man might ride a hundred miles 
and not meet another. They were not only few, but 
scattered, and had not drawn together and formed towns 
as at present. 

Of what became of the vast multitudes that left the 
country, nothing has ever been heard, and no communica- 
tion has been received from them. For this reason I 
cannot conceal my opinion that they must have sailed 
either to the westward or to the southward where the 
greatest extent of ocean is understood to exist, and not to 



22 AFTER LONDON 

the eastward, as Silvester would have it in his work upon 
the " Unknown Orb," the dark body travelling in space to 
which I have alluded. None of our vessels in the present 
day dare venture into those immense tracts of sea, nor, 
indeed, out of sight of land, unless they know they shall 
see it again so soon as they have reached and surmounted 
the ridge of the horizon. Had they only crossed to the 
mainland or continent again, we should most likely have 
heard of their passage across the countries there. 

It is true that ships rarely come over, and only to two 
ports, and that the men on them say (so far as can be 
understood) that their country is equally deserted now, 
and has likewise lost its population. But still, as men 
talk unto men, and we pass intelligence across great 
breadths of land, it is almost certain that, had they 
travelled that way, some echo of their footsteps would yet 
sound back to us. Regarding this theory, therefore, as 
untenable, I put forward as a suggestion that the ancients 
really sailed to the west or to the south. 

As, for the most part, those who were left behind were 
ignorant, rude, and unlettered, it consequently happened 
that many of the marvellous things which the ancients 
did, and the secrets of their science, are known to us by 
name only, and, indeed, hardly by name. It has happened 
to us in our turn as it happened to the ancients. For 
they were aware that in times before their own the art of 
making glass malleable had been discovered, so that it 
could be beaten into shape like copper. But the manner 
in which it was accomplished was entirely unknown to 



MEN OF THE WOODS 23 

them ; the fact was on record, but the cause lost. So now 
we know that those who to us are the ancients had a way 
of making diamonds and precious stones out of black and 
lustreless charcoal, a fact which approaches the incredible. 
Still, we do not doubt it, though we cannot imagine by 
what means it was carried out. 

They also sent intelligence to the utmost parts of the 
earth along wires which were not tubular, but solid, and 
therefore could not transmit sound, and yet the person 
who received the message could hear and recognise the 
voice of the sender a thousand miles away. With certain 
machines worked by fire, they traversed the land swift as 
the swallow glides through the sky, but of these things 
not a relic remains to us. What metal-work or wheels 
or bars of iron were left, and might have given us a clue, 
were all broken up and melted down for use in other 
ways when metal became scarce. 

Mounds of earth are said to still exist in the woods, 
which originally formed the roads for these machines, but 
they are now so low, and so covered with thickets, that 
nothing can be learnt from them ; and, indeed, though I 
have heard of their existence, I have never seen one. 
Great holes were made through the very hills for the 
passage of the iron chariot, but they are now blocked 
by the fallen roofs, nor dare any one explore such parts 
as may yet be open. Where are the wonderful structures 
with which the men of those days were lifted to the 
skies, rising above the clouds ? These marvellous things 
are to us little more than the fables of the giants and of 



24 AFTER LONDON 

the old gods that walked upon the earth, which were 
fables even to those whom we call the ancients. 

Indeed, we have fuller knowledge of those extremely- 
ancient times than of the people who immediately 
preceded us, and the Romans and the Greeks are more 
familiar to us than the men who rode in the iron chariots 
and mounted to the skies. The reason why so many 
arts and sciences were lost was because, as I have 
previously said, the most of those who were left in the 
country were ignorant, rude, and unlettered. They had 
seen the iron chariots, but did not understand the method 
of their construction, and could not hand down the 
knowledge they did not themselves possess. The magic 
wires of intelligence passed through their villages, but 
they did not know how to work them. 

The cunning artificers of the cities all departed, and 
everything fell quickly into barbarism ; nor could it be 
wondered at, for the few and scattered people of those 
days had enough to do to preserve their lives. Com- 
munication between one place and another was absolutely 
cut off, and if one perchance did recollect something that 
might have been of use, he could not confer with another 
who knew the other part, and thus between them re- 
construct the machine. In the second generation even 
these disjointed memories died out. 

At first it is supposed that those who remained behind 
existed upon the grain in the warehouses, and what they 
could thresh by the flail from the crops left neglected in 
the fields. But as the provisions in the warehouses were 



MEN OF THE WOODS 25 

consumed or spoiled, they hunted the animals, lately tame 
and as yet but half wild. As these grew less in number 
and difficult to overtake, they set to work again to till the 
ground, and cleared away small portions of the earth, 
encumbered already with brambles and thistles. Some 
grew corn, and some took charge of sheep. Thus, in 
time, places far apart from each other were settled, and 
towns were built ; towns, indeed, we call them to dis- 
tinguish them from the champaign, but they are not 
worthy of the name in comparison with the mighty cities 
of old time. 

There are many that have not more than fifty houses 
in the enclosure, and perhaps no other station within a 
day's journey, and the largest are but villages, reckoning 
by antiquity. For the most part they have their own 
government, or had till recently, and thus there grew up 
many provinces and kingdoms in the compass of what 
was originally but one. Thus separated and divided, there 
came also to be many races where in the first place was 
one people. Now, in briefly recounting the principal 
divisions of men, I will commence with those who are 
everywhere considered the lowest. These are the Bush~ 
men, who live wholly in the woods. 

Even among the ancients, when every man, woman, 
and child, could exercise those arts which are now the 
special mark of nobility, i.e. reading and writing, there 
was a degraded class of persons who refused to avail 
themselves of the benefits of civilization. They obtained 
their food by begging, wandering along the highways, 



26 AFTER LONDON 

crouching around fires which they lit in the open, clad in 
rags, and exhibiting countenances from which every trace 
of self-respect had disappeared. These were the ancestors 
of the present men of the bushes. 

They took naturally to the neglected fields, and form- 
ing ** camps " as they call their tribes, or rather families, 
wandered to and fro, easily subsisting upon roots and 
trapped game. So they live to this day, having become 
extremely dexterous in snaring every species of bird and 
animal, and the fishes of the streams. These latter they 
sometimes poison with a drug or plant (it is not known 
which), the knowledge of which has been preserved among 
them since the days of the ancients. The poison kills the 
fishes, and brings them to the surface, when they can be 
collected by hundreds, but does not injure them for eating. 

Like the black wood-dogs, the Bushmen often in fits of 
savage frenzy destroy thrice as much as they can devour, 
trapping deer in wickerwork hedges, or pitfalls, and cutting 
the miserable animals in pieces, for mere thirst of blood. 
The oxen and cattle in the enclosures are occasionally in 
the same manner fearfully mutilated by these wretches, 
sometimes for amusement, and sometimes in vengeance 
for injuries done to them. Bushmen have no settled home, 
cultivate no kind of corn or vegetable, keep no animals, 
not even dogs, have no houses or huts, no boats or canoes, 
nothing that requires the least intelligence or energy to 
construct. 

Roaming to and fro without any apparent aim or 
object, or any particular route, they fix their camp for a 



MEN OF THE WOODS 27 

few days wherever it suits their fancy, and again move on, 
no man knows why or whither. It is this uncertainty 
of movement which makes them so dangerous. To-day 
there may not be the least sign of any within miles of an 
enclosure. In the night a " camp " may pass, slaughter- 
ing such cattle as may have remained without the palisade, 
or killing the unfortunate shepherd who has not got within 
the walls, and in the morning they may be nowhere to 
be seen, having disappeared like vermin. Face to face the 
Bushman is never to be feared ; a whole " camp " or 
tribal family will scatter if a traveller stumbles into their 
midst. It is from behind a tree or under cover of night 
that he deals his murderous blow. 

A " camp " may consist of ten or twenty individuals, 
sometimes, perhaps, of forty, or even fifty, of various ages, 
and is ruled by the eldest, who is also the parent. He is 
absolute master of his *' camp," but has no power or 
recognition beyond it, so that how many leaders there 
may be among them it is not possible even to guess. Nor 
is the master known to them as king, or duke, nor has he 
any title, but is simply the oldest or founder of the family. 
The " camp " has no law, no established custom ; events 
happen, and even the master cannot be said to reign. 
When he becomes feeble, they simply leave him to die. 

They are depraved, and without shame, clad in 
sheep-skins chiefly, if clad at all, or in such clothes as 
they have stolen. They have no ceremonies what- 
ever. The number of these " camps " must be con- 
siderable, and yet the Bushmen are seldom seen, nor 



28 AFTER LONDON 

do we very often hear of their depredations, which is 
accounted for by the extent of country they wander over. 
It is in severe winters that the chief danger occurs ; 
they then suffer from hunger and cold, and are driven 
to the neighbourhood of the enclosures to steal. So 
dexterous are they in slipping through the bushes, and 
slinking among the reeds and osiers, that they will pass 
within a few yards without discovering their presence, 
and the signs of their passage can be detected only by the 
experienced hunter, and not always by him. 

It is observed that whatever mischief the Bushman 
commits, he never sets fire to any ricks or buildings ; the 
reason is because his nature is to slink from the scene of 
his depredations, and flame at once attracts people to the 
spot. Twice the occurrence of a remarkably severe winter 
has caused the Bushmen to flock together and act in an 
approach to concert in attacking the enclosures. The 
Bushmen of the north, who were even more savage and 
brutal, then came down, and were with difficulty repulsed 
from the walled cities. In ordinary times we see very 
little of them. They are the thieves, the human vermin 
of the woods. 

Under the name of gipsies, those who are now often 
called Romany and Zingari were well known to the 
ancients. Indeed, they boast that their ancestry goes 
back so much farther than the oldest we can claim, that 
the ancients themselves were but modern to them. Even 
in that age of highest civilization, which immediately 
preceded the present, they say (and there is no doubt of 



MEN OF THE WOODS 29 

it) that they preserved the blood of their race pure and 
untaintedjthat they never dvv^elt under permanent roofs, nor 
bowled their knees to the prevalent religion. They re- 
mained apart, and still continue after civilization has disap- 
peared, exactly the same as they were before it commenced. 

Since the change their numbers have greatly increased, 
and were they not always at war with each other, it 
is possible that they might go far to sweep the house 
people from the land. But there are so many tribes, each 
with its king, queen, or duke, that their power is divided, 
and their force melts away. The ruler of the Bushman 
families is always a man, but among the gipsies a woman, 
and even a young girl, often exercises supreme authority, 
but must be of the sacred blood. These kings and dukes 
are absolute autocrats within their tribe, and can order by 
a nod the destruction of those who offend them. Habits 
of simplest obedience being enjoined on the tribe from 
the earliest childhood, such executions are rare, but the 
right to command them is not for a moment questioned. 

Of the sorcerers, and particularly the sorceresses, among 
them, all have heard, and, indeed, the places where they 
dwell seem full of mystery and magic. They live in 
tents, and though they constantly remove from district to 
district, one tribe never clashes with or crosses another, 
because all have their especial routes, upon which no 
intrusion is ever made. Some agriculture is practised, 
and flocks and herds are kept, but the work is entirely 
done by the women. The men are always on horseback, 
or sleeping in their tents. 



30 AFTER LONDON 

Each tribe has its central camping-place, to which they 
return at intervals after perhaps wandering for months, a 
certain number of persons being left at home to defend it. 
These camps are often situated in inaccessible positions, 
and well protected by stockades. The territory which is 
acknowledged to belong to such a camp is extremely 
limited ; its mere environs only are considered the actual 
property of the tribe, and a second can pitch its tents -within 
a few hundred yards. These stockades, in fact, are more 
like store-houses than residences; each is a mere rendezvous. 

The gipsies are everywhere, but their stockades are most 
numerous in the south, along the sides of the green hills 
and plains, and especially round Stonehenge, where, on 
the great open plains, among the huge boulders, placed 
ages since in circles, they perform strange ceremonies and 
incantations. They attack every traveller, and every cara- 
van or train of waggons which they feel strong enough to 
master, but they do not murder the solitary sleeping hunter 
or shepherd like the Bushmen. They will, indeed, steal 
from him, but do not kill, except in fight. Once, now 
and then, they have found their way into towns, when 
terrible massacres have followed, for, when excited, the 
savage knows not how to restrain himself. 

Vengeance is their idol. If any community has injured 
or affronted them, they never cease endeavouring to 
retaliate, and will wipe it out in fire and blood generations 
afterwards. There are towns which have thus been 
suddenly harried when the citizens had forgotten that any 
cause of enmity existed. Vengeance is their religion and 



MEN OF THE WOODS 31 

their social law, which guides all their actions among 
themselves. It is for this reason that they are continually 
at war, duke with duke, and king with king. A deadly 
feud, too, has set Bushman and gipsy at each other's 
throat, far beyond the memory of man. The Romany 
looks on the Bushman as a dog, and slaughters him as 
such. In turn, the despised human dog slinks in the 
darkness of the night into the Romany's tent, and stabs 
his daughter or his wife, for such is the meanness and 
cowardice of the Bushman that he would always rather 
kill a woman than a man. 

There is also a third class of men who are not true 
gipsies, but have something of their character, though the 
gipsies will not allow that they were originally half-breeds. 
Their habits are much the same, except that they are 
foot men and rarely use horses, and are therefore called 
the foot gipsies. The gipsy horse is really a pony. Once 
only have the Romany combined to attack the house 
people, driven, like the Bushmen, by an exceedingly 
severe winter, against which they had no provision. 

But, then, instead of massing their forces and throwing 
their irresistible numbers upon one city or territory, all 
they would agree to do was that, upon a certain day, each 
tribe should invade the land nearest to it. The result was 
that they were, though with trouble, repulsed. Until 
lately, no leader ventured to follow the gipsies to their 
strongholds, for they were reputed invincible behind their 
stockades. By infesting the woods and lying in ambush 
they rendered commimication between city and city 



32 AFTER LONDON 

difficult and dangerous, except to bodies of armed men, 
and every waggon had to be defended by troops. 

The gipsies, as they roam, make little secret of their 
presence (unless, of course, intent upon mischief), but 
light their fires by day and night fearlessly. The 
Bushmen never light a fire by day, lest the ascending 
smoke, which cannot be concealed, should betray their 
whereabouts. Their fires are lit at night in hollows or 
places well surrounded with thickets, and that the flame 
may not be seen, they will build screens of fir boughs or 
fern. When they have obtained a good supply of hot 
wood coals, no more sticks are thrown on, but these are 
covered with turf, and thus kept in long enough for their 
purposes. Much of their meat they devour raw, and thus 
do not need a fire so frequently as others. 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE INVADERS. 

Those who live by agriculture or in towns, and are 
descended from the remnant of the ancients, are divided, 
as I have previously said, into numerous provinces, 
kingdoms, and republics. In the middle part of the 
■country the cities are almost all upon the shores of the 
Lake, or within a short distance of the water, and there 
is therefore more traffic and communication between them 
by means of vessels than is the case with inland towns, 
-whose trade must be carried on by caravans and waggons. 



THE INVADERS 33 

These not only move slowly, but are subject to be inter- 
rupted by the Romany and by the banditti, or persons 
who, for moral or political crimes, have been banished 
from their homes. 

It is in the cities that cluster around the great central 
Lake that all the life and civilization of our day are found ; 
but there also begin those w^ars and social convulsions 
which cause so much suffering. When was the Peninsula 
at peace? and when was there not some mischief and 
change brewing in the republics? When was there not 
a danger from the northern mainland ? 

Until recent years there was little knowledge of, and 
scarcely any direct commerce or intercourse between, 
the central part and the districts either of the extreme 
w^est or the north, and it is only now that the north and 
east are becoming open to us ; for at the back of the 
narrow circle of cultivated land, the belt about the Lake, 
there extend immense forests in every direction, through 
"which, till very lately, no practicable way had been cut. 
£ven in the more civilized central part it is not to this 
day easy to travel, for at the barriers, as you approach the 
territories of every prince, they demand your business and 
your papers ; nor even if you establish the fact that you 
are innocent of designs against the State, shall you hardly 
enter without satisfying the greed of the officials. 

A fine is thus exacted at the gate of every province 
and kingdom, and again at the gateways of the towns. 
The difference of the coinage, such as it is, causes also 
;great loss and trouble, for the money of one kingdom 

3 



34 AFTER LONDON 

(though passing current by command in that territory) is 
not received at its nominal value in the next on account 
of the alloy it contains. It is, indeed, in many kingdoms 
impossible to obtain sterling money. Gold there is little 
or none anywhere, but silver is the standard of exchange, 
and copper, bronze, and brass, sometimes tin, are the 
metals with which the greater number of the people 
transact their business. 

Justice is corrupt, for where there is a king or a prince 
it depends on the caprice of a tyrant, and where there is 
a republic upon the shout of the crowd, so that many, 
if they think they may be put on trial, rather than face 
the risk at once escape into the woods. The League, 
though based ostensibly on principles the most exalted 
and beneficial to humanity, is known to be perverted. 
The members sworn to honour and the highest virtue are 
swayed by vile motives, political hatreds, and private 
passions, and even by money. 

Men for ever trample upon men, each pushing to the 
front; nor is there safety in remaining in retirement, 
since such are accused of biding their time and of occult 
designs. Though the population of these cities all counted 
together is not equal to the population that once dwelt 
in a single second-rate city of the ancients, yet how 
much greater are the bitterness and the struggle ! 

Yet, not content with the bloodshed they themselves 
cause, the tyrants have called in the aid of mercenary 
soldiers to assist them. And, to complete the disgrace, 
those republics which proclaim themselves the very home 



THE INVADERS 35 

of patriotic virtues, have resorted to the same means. 
Thus we see English cities kept in awe bv troops of 
Welshmen, Irish, and even the western Scots, who swarm 
in the council-chambers of the republics, and opening the 
doors of the houses, help themselves to what they will. 
This, too, in the face of the notorious fact that these 
nations have sworn to be avenged upon us, that their 
vessels sail about the Lake committing direful acts of 
piracy, and that twice already vast armies have swept 
along threatening to entirely overwhelm the whole 
commonwealth. 

What infatuation to admit bands of these same men 
into the very strongholds and the heart of the land ! As 
if upon the approach of their countrymen they would 
remain true to the oaths they have sworn for pay, and 
not rather admit them with open arms. No blame can, 
upon a just consideration, be attributed to either of these 
nations that endeavour to oppress us. For, as they point 
out, the ancients from whom we are descended held them 
in subjection many hundred years, and took from them 
all their liberties. 

Thus the Welsh, or, as they call themselves, the Cymry, 
say that the whole island was once theirs, and is theirs 
still by right of inheritance. They were the original 
people who possessed it ages before the arrival of those 
whom we call the ancients. Though they were driven 
into the mountains of the far distant west, they never 
forgot their language, ceased their customs, or gave up 
their aspirations to recover their own. This is now their 

3—2 



36 AFTER LONDON 

aim, and until recently it seemed as if they were about to 
accomplish it. For they held all that country anciently 
called Cornwall, having crossed over the Severn, and 
marched down the southern shore. The rich land of 
Devon, part of Dorset (all, indeed, that is inhabited), 
and the most part of Somerset, acknowledged their rule. 
Worcester and Hereford and Gloucester were theirs ; I 
mean, of course, those parts that are not forest. 

Their outposts were pushed forward to the centre of 
Leicestershire, and came down towards Oxford. But 
thereabouts they met with the forces of which I will shortly 
speak. Then their vessels every summer sailing from the 
Severn, came into the Lake, and, landing wherever there 
was an opportunity, they destroyed all things and carried 
off the spoil. Is it necessary to say more to demonstrate 
the madness which possesses those princes and republics 
which, in order to support their own tyranny, have invited 
bands of these men into their very palaces and forts ? 

As they approached near what was once Oxford and is 
now Sypolis, the armies of the Cymry came into collision 
with another of our invaders, and thus their forward 
course to the south was checked. The Irish, who had 
hitherto abetted them, turned round to defend their own 
usurpations. They, too, say that in conquering and 
despoiling my countrymen they are fulfilling a divine 
vengeance. Their land of Ireland had been for centuries 
ground down with an iron tyranny by our ancestors, who 
closed their lips with a muzzle, and led them about with a 
bridle, as their poets say. But now the hateful Saxons 



THE INVADERS 37 

(for thus both they and the Welsh designate us) are 
broken, and delivered over to them for their spoil. 

It is not possible to deny many of the statements that 
they make, but that should not prevent us from battling with 
might and main against the threatened subjection. What 
crime can be greater than the admission of such foreigners 
as the guards of our cities ? Now the Irish have their 
principal rendezvous and capital near to the ancient city 
of Chester, which is upon the ocean, and at the very top and 
angle of Wales. This is their great settlement, their 
magazine and rallying-place, and thence their expeditions 
have proceeded. It is a convenient port and well opposite 
their native land, from which reinforcements continually 
arrive, but the Welsh have ever looked upon their posses- 
sion of it with jealousy. 

At the period when the Cymry had nearly penetrated 
to SypoHs or Oxford, the Irish, on their part, had overrun 
all the cultivated and inhabited country in a south and 
south-easterly line from Chester, through Rutland to 
Norfolk and Suffolk, and even as far as Luton. They 
would have spread to the north, but in that direction they 
were met by the Scots, who had all Northumbria. When 
the Welsh came near Sypolis, the Irish awoke to the 
position of affairs. 

Sypolis is the largest and most important city upon the 
northern shore of the Lake, and it is situated at the 
entrance to the neck of land that stretches out to the 
straits. If the Welsh were once well posted there, the 
Irish could never hope to find their way to the rich and 



38 AFTER LONDON 

cultivated south, for it is just below Sypolis that the 
Lake contracts, and forms a strait in one place but a 
furlong wide. The two forces thus came into collision, 
and while they fought and destroyed each other, Sypolis 
was saved. After which, finding they were evenly 
matched, the Irish withdrew two days' march northwards, 
and the Cymry as far westwards. 

But now the Irish, sailing round the outside of Wales, 
came likewise up through the Red Rocks, and so into 
the Lake, and in their turn landing, harassed the cities. 
Often Welsh and Irish vessels, intending to attack the 
same place, have discerned each other approaching, and, 
turning from their proposed action, have flown at each 
other's throats. The Scots have not harassed us in the 
south much, being too far distant, and those that wander 
hither come for pay, taking service as guards. They are, 
indeed, the finest of men, and the hardiest to battle with. 
I had forgotten to mention that it is possible the Irish 
might have pushed back the W^h, had not the kingdom 
of York, suddenly reviving, by means which shall be 
related, valiantly thrust out its masters, and fell upon their 
rear. 

But still these nations are always upon the verge and 
margin of our world, and wait but an opportunity to rush 
in upon it. Our countrymen groan under their yoke, 
and I say again that infamy should be the portion of those 
rulers among us who have filled their fortified places with 
mercenaries derived from such sources. 

The land, too, is weak, because of the multitude of 



THE INVADERS 39 

bondsmen. In the provinces and kingdoms round about 
the Lake there is hardly a town where the slaves do not 
outnumber the free as ten to one. The laws are framed 
for the object of reducing the greater part of the people 
to servitude. For every offence the punishment is slavery, 
and the offences are daily artificially increased, that the 
wealth of the few in human beings may grow with them. 
If a man in his hunger steal a loaf, he becomes a slave ; 
that is, it is proclaimed he must make good to the State 
the injury he has done it, and must work out his trespass. 
This is not assessed as the value of the loaf, nor supposed 
to be confined to the individual from whom it was 
taken. 

The theft is said to damage the State at large, because 
it corrupts the morality of the commonwealth ; it is as if 
the thief had stolen a loaf, not from one, but from every 
member of the State. Restitution must, therefore, be 
made to all, and the value of the loaf returned in labour a 
thousandfold. The thief is the bondsman of the State. 
But as the State cannot employ him, he is leased out to 
those who will pay into the treasury of the prince the 
money equivalent to the labour he is capable of performing. 
Thus, under cover of the highest morality, the greatest 
iniquity is perpetrated. For the theft of a loaf, the man 
is reduced to a slave ; then his wife and children, unable 
to support themselves, become a charge to the State; that 
is, they beg in the public ways. 

This, too, forsooth, corrupts morality, and they like- 
wise are seired and leased out to any who like to take 



40 AFTER LONDON 

them. Nor can he or they ever become free again, for 
they must repay to their proprietor the sum he gave for 
them, and how can that be done, since they receive no 
wages ? For striking another, a man may be in the 
same way, as they term it, forfeited to the State, and be 
sold to the highest bidder. A stout brass wire is then 
twisted around his left wrist loosely, and the ends 
soldered together. Then a bar of iron being put through, 
a half turn is given to it, which forces the wire sharply 
against the arm, causing it to fit tightly, often painfully, 
and forms a smaller ring at the outside. By this smaller 
ring a score of bondsmen may be seen strung together with 
a rope. 

To speak disrespectfully of the prince or his council, or 
of the nobles, or of religion, to go out of the precincts 
without permission, to trade without license, to omit to 
salute the great, all these and a thousand others are crimes 
deserving of the brazen bracelet. Were a man to study 
all day what he must do, and what he must not do, to 
escape servitude, it would not be possible for him to stir 
one step without becoming forfeit ! And yet they 
hypocritically say that these things are done for the sake 
of public morality, and that there are no slaves (not 
permitting the word to be used), and no man was ever 
sold. 

It is, indeed, true that no man is sold in open market, 
he is leased instead ; and, by a refined hypocrisy, the 
owner of slaves cannot sell them to another owner, but 
he can place them in the hands of the notary, presenting 



THE INVADERS 41 

them with their freedom, so far as he is concerned. The 
notary, upon payment of a fine from the purchaser, 
transfers them to him, and the larger part of the fine goes 
to the prince. Debt alone under their laws must crowd 
the land with slaves, for, as wages are scarcely known, a 
child from its birth is often declared to be in debt. For 
its nourishment is drawn from its mother, and the 
wretched mother is the wife of a retainer who is fed by 
his lord. To such a degree is this tyranny carried ! If any 
owe a penny, his doom is sealed; he becomes a bonds- 
man, and thus the estates of the nobles are full of men 
who work during their whole lives for the profit of others. 
Thus, too, the woods are filled with banditti, for those 
who find an opportunity never fail to escape, notwith- 
standing the hunt that is invariably made for them, 
and the cruel punishment that awaits recapture. And 
numbers, foreseeing that they must become bondsmen, 
before they are proclaimed forfeit steal away by night, 
and live as they may in the forests. 

How, then, does any man remain free ? Only by the 
favour of the nobles, and only that he may amass wealth 
for them. The merchants, and those who have license 
to trade by land or water, are all protected by some noble 
house, to whom they pay heavily for permission to live in 
their own houses. The principal tyrant is supported by 
the nobles, that they in their turn may tyrannise over the 
merchants, and they again over all the workmen of their 
shops and bazaars. 

Over their own servants (for thus they call the slaves, 



42 AFTER LONDON 

that the word itself may not be used), who work upon 
their estates, the nobles are absolute masters, and may- 
even hang them upon the nearest tree. And here I 
cannot but remark how strange it is, first, that any man 
can remain a slave rather than die ; and secondly, how 
much stranger it is that any other man, himself a slave, 
can be found to hunt down or to hang his fellow; yet 
the tyrants never lack executioners. Their castles are 
crowded with retainers who wreak their wills upon the 
defenceless. These retainers do not wear the brazen 
bracelet; they are free. Are there, then, no beggars? 
Yes, they sit at every corner, and about the gates of the 
cities, asking for alms. 

Though begging makes a man forfeit to the State, it is 
only v/hen he has thews and sinews, and can work. The 
diseased and aged, the helpless and feeble, may break the 
law, and starve by the roadside, because it profits no one 
to make them his slaves. And all these things are done 
in the name of morality, and for the good of the human 
race, as they constantly announce in their councils and 
parliaments. 

There are two reasons why the mercenaries have been 
called in ; first, because the princes found the great nobles 
so powerful, and can keep them in check only by the aid 
of these foreigners ; and secondly, because the number of 
the outlaws in the woods has become so great that the 
nobles themselves are afraid lest their slaves should revolt, 
and, with the aid of the outlaws, overcome them. 



THE INVADERS 43 

Now the mark of a noble is that he can read and 
write. When the ancients were scattered, the remnant 
that was left behind was, for the most part, the ignorant 
and the poor. But among them there was here and there 
a man who possessed some little education and force of 
mind. At first there was no order ; but after thirty years 
or so, after a generation, some order grew up, and these 
men, then become aged, were naturally chosen as leaders. 
They had, indeed, no actual power then, no guards or 
armies; but the common folk, who had no knowledge, 
came to them for decision of their disputes, for advice 
what to do, for the pronouncement of some form of 
marriage, for the keeping of some note of property, and 
to be united against a mutual danger. 

These men in turn taught their children to read and 
write, wishing that some part of the wisdom of the 
ancients might be preserved. They themselves wrote 
down what they knew, and these manuscripts, transmitted 
to their children, were saved with care. Some of them 
remain to this day. These children, growing to man- 
hood, took more upon them, and assumed higher authority 
as the past was forgotten, and the original equality of all 
men lost in antiquity. The small enclosed farms of their 
fathers became enlarged to estates, the estates became 
towns, and thus, by degrees, the order of the nobility was 
formed. As they intermarried only among themselves, 
they preserved a certain individuality. At this day a 
noble is at once known, no matter how coarsely he may 
be dressed, or how brutal his habits, by his delicacy of 



44 AFTER LONDON 

feature, his air of command, even by his softness of skin 
and fineness of hair. 

Still, the art of reading and writing is scrupulously 
imparted to all their legitimate offspring, and scrupulously 
confined to them alone. It is true that they do not use 
it except on rare occasions when necessity demands, being 
wholly given over to the chase, to war, and politics, but 
they retain the knowledge. Indeed, were a noble to be 
known not to be abk to read and write, the prince would 
at once degrade him, and the sentence would be upheld 
by the entire caste. No other but the nobles are permitted 
to acquire these arts; if any attempt to do so, they are 
enslaved and punished. But none do attempt ; of what 
avail would it be to them ? 

All knowledge is thus retained in the possession of the 
nobles. They do not use it, but the physicians, for instance, 
who are famous, are so because, by favour of some baron, 
they have learned receipts in the ancient manuscripts 
which have been mentioned. One virtue, and one only, 
adorns this exclusive caste : they are courageous to the 
verge of madness. I had almost omitted to state that the 
merchants know how to read and write, having special 
license and permits to do so, without which they may not 
correspond. There are few books, and still fewer to read 
them ; and these all in manuscript, for though the way 
to print is not lost, it is not employed since no one wants 
books. 



THE LAKE 45 

CHAPTER V. 

THE LAKE. 

There now only remains the geography of our country 
to be treated of before the history is commenced. Now 
the most striking difference between the country as we 
know it and as it was known to the ancients is the exist- 
ence of the great Lake in the centre of the island. From 
the Red Rocks (by the Severn) hither, the most direct 
route a galley can follow is considered to be about 200 
miles in length, and it is a journey which often takes a 
week even for a vessel well-manned, because the course, as 
it turns round the islands, faces so many points of the 
compass, and therefore the oarsmen are sure to have to 
labour in the teeth of the wind, no matter which way it 
blows. 

Many parts are still unexplored, and scarce anything 
known of their extent, even by repute. Until Felix 
Aquila's time, the greater portion, indeed, had not even a 
name. Each community was well acquainted with the 
bay before its own city, and with the route to the next, 
but beyond that they were ignorant, and had no desire 
to learn. Yet the Lake cannot really be so long and 
broad as it seems, for the country could not contain it. 
The length is increased, almost trebled, by the islands 
and shoals, which will not permit of navigation in a 
straight line. For the most part, too, they follow the 
southern shore of the mainland, which is protected by 



46 AFTER LONDON 

a fringe of islets and banks from the storms which sweep 
over the open waters. 

Thus, rowing along round the gulfs and promontories, 
their voyage is thrice prolonged, but rendered nearly safe 
from the waves, which rise with incredible celerity before 
the gales. The slow ships of commerce, indeed, are often 
days in traversing the distance between one port and 
another, for they wait for the wind to blow abaft, and 
being heavy, deeply laden, built broad and flat-bottomed 
for shallows, and bluff at the bows, they drift like logs 
of timber. In canoes the hunters, indeed, sometimes pass 
swiftly from one place to another, venturing farther out 
to sea than the ships. They could pass yet more quickly 
were it not for the inquisition of the authorities at every 
city and port, who not only levy dues and fees for the. 
treasury of the prince, and for their own rapacious desires, 
but demand whence the vessel comes, to whom she 
belongs, and whither she is bound, so that no ship can 
travel rapidly unless so armed as to shake off these 
inquisitors. 

The canoes, therefore, travel at night and in calm 
weather many miles away from the shore, and thus escape, 
or slip by daylight among the reedy shallows, sheltered by 
the flags and willows from view. The ships of commerce 
haul up to the shore towards evening, and the crews, 
disembarking, light their fires and cook their food. There 
are, however, one or two gaps, as it were, in their usual 
course which they cannot pass in this leisurely manner : 
where the shore is exposed and rocky, or too shallow, and 



THE LAKE 47 

where they must reluctantly put forth, and sail from one 
horn of the land to the other. 

The Lake is also divided into two unequal portions by 
the straits of White Horse, where vessels are often 
weather-bound, and cannot make way against the wind, 
which sets a current through the narrow channel. There 
is no tide ; the sweet waters do not ebb and flow ; but 
while I thus discourse, I have forgotten to state how they 
came to fill the middle of the country. Now, the 
philosopher Silvester, and those who seek after marvels, 
say that the passage of the dark body through space caused 
an immense volume of fresh water to fall in the shape of 
rain, and also that the growth of the forests distilled rain 
from the clouds. Let us leave these speculations to 
dreamers, and recount what is known to be. 

For there is no tradition among the common people, 
who ar^ extremely tenacious of such things, of any great 
rainfall, nor is there any mention of floods in the ancient 
manuscripts, nor is there any larger fall of rain now than 
was formerly the case. But the Lake itself tells us how 
it was formed, or as nearly as we shall ever know, and 
these facts were established by the expeditions lately sent 
out. 

At the eastern extremity the Lake narrows, and 
finally is lost in the vast marshes which cover the site of 
the ancient London. Through these, no doubt, in the 
days of the old world there flowed the river Thames. 
By the changes of the sea level and the sand that was 
brought up there must have grown great banks, which 



48 AFTER LONDON 

obstructed the stream. I have formerly mentioned the 
vast quantities of timber, the wreckage of towns and 
bridges, which was carried down by the various rivers, and 
by none more so than by the Thames, These added to 
the accumulation, which increased the faster because the 
foundations of the ancient bridges held it like piles driven 
in for the purpose. And before this the river had become 
partially choked from the cloacae of the ancient city, 
which poured into it through enormous subterranean 
aqueducts and drains. 

After a time all these shallows and banks became well 
matted together by the growth of weeds, of willows, and 
flags, while the tide, ebbing lower at each drawing back, 
left still more mud and sand. Now it is believed that 
when this had gone on for a time, the waters of the 
river, unable to find a channel, began to overflow up into 
the deserted streets, and especially to fill the underground 
passages and drains, of which the number and extent was 
beyond all the power of words to describe. These, by the 
force of the water, were burst up, and the houses fell in. 

For this marvellous city, of which such legends are 
related, was after all only of brick, and when the ivy 
grew over and trees and shrubs sprang up, and, lastly, the 
waters underneath burst in, the huge metropolis was 
soon overthrown. At this day all those parts which were 
built upon low ground are marshes and swamps. Those 
houses that were upon high ground were, of course, like 
the other towns, ransacked of all they contained by the 
remnant that was left ; the iron, too, was extracted. 



THE LAKE 



49 



Trees growing up by them in time cracked the walls, 
and they fell in. Trees and bushes covered them ; ivy 
and nettles concealed the crumbling masses of brick. 

The same was the case with the lesser cities and towns 
whose sites are known in the woods. For though many 
of our present towns bear the ancient names, they do not 
stand upon the ancient sites, but are two or three, and 
sometimes ten miles distant. The founders carried with 
them the name of their original residence. 

Thus the low-lying parts of the mighty city of London 
became swamps, and the higher grounds were clad with 
bushes. The very largest of the buildings fell in, and 
there was nothing visible but trees and hawthorns on the 
upper lands, and willows, flags, reeds, and rushes on the 
lower. These crumbling ruins still more choked the 
stream, and almost, if not quite, turned it back. If any 
water ooze past, it is not perceptible, and there is no 
channel through to the salt ocean. It is a vast stagnant 
swamp, which no man dare enter, since death would be 
his inevitable fate. 

There exhales from this oozy mass so fatal a vapour 
that no animal can endure it. The black water bears a 
greenish-brown floating scum, which for ever bubbles up 
from the putrid mud of the bottom. When the wind 
collects the miasma, and, as it were, presses it together, it 
becomes visible as a low cloud which hangs over the 
place. The cloud does not advance beyond the limits of 
the marsh, seeming to stay there by some constant attrac- 
tion ; and well it is for us that it does not, since at such 

4 



50 AFTER LONDON 

times when the vapour is thickest, the very wild fowl leave 
the reeds, and fly from the poison. There are no fishes, 
neither can eels exist in the mud, nor even newts. It is 
dead. 

The flags and reeds are coated with slime and noisome 
to the touch ; there is one place where even these do not 
grow, and where there is nothing but an oily liquid, green 
and rank. It is plain there are no fishes in the water, for 
herons do not go thither, nor the kingfishers, not one of 
which approaches the spot. They say the sun is some- 
times hidden by the vapour when it is thickest, but I do 
not see how any can tell this, since they could not enter 
the cloud, as to breathe it when collected by the wind is 
immediately fatal. For all the rottenness of a thousand 
years and of many hundred millions of human beings is 
there festering under the stagnant water, which has sunk 
down into and penetrated the earth, and floated up to the 
surface the contents of the buried cloacae. 

Many scores of men have, I fear, perished in the attempt 
to enter this fearful place, carried on by their desire of 
gain. For it can scarcely be disputed that untold treasure 
lies hidden therein, but guarded by terrors greater than 
fiery serpents. These have usually made their endeavours 
to enter in severe and continued frost, or in the height of 
a drought. Frost diminishes the power of the vapour, 
and the marshes can then, too, be partially traversed, for 
there is no channel for a boat. But the moment anything 
be moved, whether it be a bush, or a willow, even a flag, 
if the ice be broken, the pestilence rises yet stronger. 



THE LAKE 51 

Besides which, there are portions which never freeze, and 
which may be approached unawares, or a turn of the 
wind may drift the gas towards the explorer. 

In the midst of the summer, after long heat, the vapour 
rises, and is in a degree dissipated into the sky, and then 
by following devious ways an entrance may be effected, 
but always at the cost of illness. If the explorer be unable 
to quit the spot before night, whether in summer or winter, 
his death is certain. In the earlier times some bold and 
adventurous men did indeed succeed in getting a few 
jewels, but since then the marsh has become more 
dangerous, and its pestilent character, indeed, increases 
year by year, as the stagnant water penetrates deeper. 
So that now for very many years no such attempts have 
been made. 

The extent of these foul swamps is not known with 
certainty, but it is generally believed that they are, at the 
widest, twenty miles across, and that they reach in a 
winding line for nearly forty. But the outside parts are 
much less fatal ; it is only the interior which is avoided. 

Towards the Lake the sand thrown up by the waves 
has long since formed a partial barrier between the sweet 
water and the stagnant, rising up to within a few feet of 
the surface. This barrier is overgrown with flags and 
reeds, where it is shallow. Here it is possible to sail along 
the sweet water within an arrow-shot of the swamp. 
Nor, indeed, would the stagnant mingle with the sweet, 
as is evident at other parts of the swamp, where streams 
flow side by side with the dark or reddish water; and 

4—2 



52 AFTER LONDON 

there are pools, upon one side of which the deer drink, 
while the other is not frequented even by rats. 

The common people aver that demons reside in these 
swamps ; and, indeed, at night fiery shapes are seen, which, 
to the ignorant, are sufficient confirmation of such tales. 
The vapour, where it is most dense, takes fire, like the 
blue flame of spirits, and these flaming clouds float to and 
fro, and yet do not burn the reeds. The superstitious 
trace in them the forms of demons and winged fiery 
serpents, and say that white spectres haunt the margin of 
the marsh after dusk. In a lesser degree, the same thing 
has taken place with other ancient cities. It is true that 
there are not always swamps, but the sites are uninhabit- 
able because of the emanations from the ruins. Therefore 
they are avoided. Even the spot where a single house 
has been known to have existed is avoided by the hunters 
in the woods. 

They say when they are stricken with ague or fever, 
that they must have unwittingly slept on the site of an 
ancient habitation. Nor can the ground be cultivated 
near the ancient towns, because it causes fever ; and thus 
it is that, as I have already stated, the present places of the 
same name are often miles distant from the former locality. 
No sooner does the plough or the spade turn up an ancient 
site than those who work there are attacked with illness. 
And thus the cities of the old world, and their houses and 
habitations, are deserted and lost in the forest. If the 
hunters, about to pitch their camp for the night, should 
stumble on so much as a crumbling brick or a fragment 



THE LAKE 53 

of hewn stone, they at once remove at least a bowshot 
away. 

The eastward flow of the Thames being at first 
checked, and finally almost or quite stopped by the 
formation of these banks, the water turned backwards as 
it were, and began to cover the hitherto dry land. And 
this, with the other lesser rivers and brooks that no longer 
had any ultimate outlet, accounts for the Lake, so far as 
this side of the country is concerned. 

At the western extremity the waters also contract 
between the steep cliffs called the Red Rocks, near to 
which once existed the city of Bristol. Now the Welsh 
say, and the tradition of those who dwell in that part of 
the country bears them out, that in the time of the old 
world the River Severn flowed past the same spot, but 
not between these cliffs. The great river Severn coming 
down from the north, with England on one bank and 
Wales upon the other, entered the sea, widening out as it 
did so. Just before it reached the sea, another lesser 
river, called the Avon, the upper part of which is still 
there, joined it, passing through this cleft in the rocks. 

But when the days of the old world ended in the 
twilight of the ancients, as the salt ocean fell back and its 
level became lower, vast sandbanks were disclosed, which 
presently extended across the most part of the Severn 
river. Others, indeed, think that the salt ocean did not 
sink, but that the land instead was lifted higher. Then 
they say that the waves threw up an immense quantity 
of shingle and sand, and that thus these banks were 



54 AFTER LONDON 

formed. All that we know with certainty, however, is, 
that across the estuary of the Severn there rose a broad 
barrier of beach, which grew wider with the years, and 
still increases westwards. It is as if the ocean churned up 
its floor and cast it forth upon the strand. 

Now when the Severn was thus stayed yet more effec- 
tually than the Thames, in the first place it also flowed 
backwards, as it were, till its overflow and that of the 
lesser rivers which ran into it met and mingled with the 
reflux of the Thames. Thus the inland sea of fresh 
water was formed ; though Silvester hints (what is most 
improbable) that the level of the land sank and formed a 
basin. After a time, when the waters had risen high 
enough, since all water must have an outlet somewhere* 
the Lake, passing over the green country behind the Red 
Rocks, came pouring through the channel of the Avon. 

Then, farther down, it rose over the banks which were 
lowest there, and thus found its way over a dam into the 
sea. Now when the tide of the ocean is at its ebb, the 
waters of the Lake rush over these banks with so furious 
a current that no vessel can either go down or come up. 
If ships attempted to go down, they would be swamped 
by the meeting of the waves ; if they attempted to come 
up, the strongest gale that blows could not force them 
against the stream. As the tide gradually returns, 
however, the level of the ocean rises to the level of the 
Lake, the outward flow of the water ceases, and there is 
even a partial inward flow of the tide, which, at its highest, 
reaches to the Red Rocks. At this state of the tide, 



THE LAKE 53 

which happens twice in a day and niglit, vessels can enter 
or go forth. 

The Irish ships, of which I have spoken, thus come 
into the Lake, waiting outside the bar till the tide 
lifts them over. Being built to traverse the ocean 
from their country, they are large and stout and well 
manned, carrying from thirty to fifty men. The Welsh 
ships, which come down from that inlet of the Lake 
which follows the ancient course of the Severn, are much 
smaller and lighter, as not being required to withstand the 
heavy seas. They carry but fifteen or twenty men each, 
but then they are more numerous. The Irish ships, on 
account of their size and draught, in sailing about the 
sweet waters, cannot always haul on shore at night, nor 
follow the course of the ships of burden between the fringe 
of islands and the strand. 

They have often to stay in the outer and deeper 
waters ; but the Welsh boats come in easily at all parts of 
the coast, so that no place is safe against them. The 
Welsh have ever been most jealous as to that part of the 
Lake which we suppose to follow the course of the 
Severn, and will on no account permit so much as a canoe 
to enter it. So that whether it be a narrow creek, or 
whether there be wide reaches, or what the shores may 
be like, we are ignorant. And this is all that is with 
certainty known concerning the origin of the inland sea 
of sweet water, excluding all that superstition and 
speculation have advanced, and setting down nothing but 
ascertained facts. 



56 AFTER LONDON 

A beautiful sea it is, clear as crystal, exquisite to drink, 
abounding with fishes of every kind, and adorned with 
green islands. There is nothing more lovely in the world 
than when, upon a calm evening, the sun goes down 
across the level and gleaming water, where it is so wide 
that the eye can but just distinguish a low and dark cloud, 
as it were, resting upon the horizon, or perhaps, looking 
lengthways, cannot distinguish any ending to the expanse. 
Sometimes it is blue, reflecting the noonday sky ; some- 
times white from the clouds ; again green and dark as the 
wind rises and the waves roll. 

Storms, indeed, come up with extraordinary swiftness, 
for which reason the ships, whenever possible, follow the 
trade route, as it is called, behind the islands, which 
shelter them like a protecting reef. They drop equally 
quickly, and thus it is not uncommon for the morning to 
be calm, the mid-day raging in waves dashing resistlessly 
upon the beach, and the evening still again. The Irish, 
who are accustomed to the salt ocean, say, in the sudden- 
ness of its storms and the shifting winds, it is more 
dangerous than the sea itself. But then there are almost 
always islands, behind which a vessel can be sheltered. 

Beneath the surface of the Lake there must be concealed 
very many ancient towns and cities, of which the names 
are lost. Sometimes the anchors bring up even now 
fragments of rusty iron and old metal, or black beams of 
timber. It is said, and with probability, that when the 
remnant of the ancients found the water gradually 
encroaching (for it rose very slowly), as they were driven 



THE LAKE 57 

back year by year, they considered that in time they 
would be all swept away and drowned. But after 
extending to its present limits the Lake rose no farther, 
not even in the wettest seasons, but always remains the 
same. From the position of certain quays we know that 
it has thus remained for the last hundred years at least. 

Never, as I observed before, was there so beautiful an 
expanse of water. How much must we sorrow that 
it has so often proved only the easiest mode of bringing 
the miseries of war to the doors of the unoffending ! Yet 
men are never weary of sailing to and fro upon it, and 
most of the cities of the present time are upon its shore. 
And in the evening we walk by the beach, and from the 
rising grounds look over the waters, as if to gaze upon 
their loveliness were reward to us for the labour of the 
day. 



PART II. 

WILD ENGLAND. 

CHAPTER I. 
SIR FELIX. 

On a bright May morning, the sunlight, at five o'clock, 
was pouring into a room which faced the east at the 
ancestral home of the Aquilas. In this room Felix, the 
eldest of the three sons of the Baron, was sleeping. The 
beams passed over his iiead, and lit up a square space on 
the opposite whitewashed wall, where, in the midst of 
the brilliant light, hung an ivory cross. There were only 
two panes of glass in the window, each no more than 
two or three inches square, the rest of the window being 
closed by strong oaken shutters, thick enough to with- 
stand the stroke of an arrow. 

In the daytime one of these at least would have been 
thrown open to admit air and light. They did not quite 
meet, and a streak of sunshine, in addition to that which 
came through the tiny panes, entered at the chink. Only 
one window in the house contained more than two such 
panes (it was in the Baroness's sitting-room), and most of 

58 



SIR FELIX 59 

them had none at all. The glass left by the ancients in 
their dwellings had long since been used up or broken, 
and the fragments that remained were too precious to be 
put in ordinary rooms. When larger pieces were dis- 
covered, they were taken for the palaces of the princes, 
and even these were but sparingly supplied, so that the 
saying " he has glass in his window " was equivalent to 
" he belongs to the upper ranks." 

On the recess of the window was an inkstand, which 
had been recently in use, for a quill lay beside it, and a 
sheet of parchment partly covered with writing. The 
ink was thick and very dark, made of powdered charcoal, 
leaving a slightly raised writing, which could be perceived 
by the finger on rubbing it lightly over. Beneath the 
window on the bare floor was an open chest, in which 
were several similar parchments and books, and from 
which the sheet on the recess had evidently been taken. 
This chest, though small, was extremely heavy and 
strong, being dug out with the chisel and gouge from a 
solid block of oak. Except a few parallel grooves, there 
was no attempt at ornamentation upon it. The lid, 
which had no hinges, but lifted completely off, was tilted 
against the wall. It was, too, of oak some inches thick, 
and fitted upon the chest by a kind of dovetailing at the 
edges. 

Instead of a lock, the chest was fastened by a lengthy 
thong of oxhide, which now lay in a coil on the floor. 
Bound round and round, twisted and intertangled, and 
finally tied with a special and secret knot (the ends being 



6o AFTER LONDON 

concealed), the thong of leather secured the contents of 
the chest from prying eyes or thievish hands. With axe 
or knife, of course, the knot might easily have been 
severed, but no one could obtain access to the room 
except the retainers of the house, and w^hich of them, 
even if unfaithful, w^ould dare to employ such means in 
view of the certain punishment that must follow ? It 
would occupy hours to undo the knot, and then it could 
not be tied again in exactly the same fashion, so that the 
real use of the thong was to assure the owner that his 
treasures had not been interfered with in his absence. 
Such locks as were made were of the clumsiest con- 
struction. They were not so difficult to pick as the 
thong to untie, and their expense, or rather the diffi- 
culty of getting a workman who could manufacture 
them, confined their use to the heads of great houses. 
The Baron's chest was locked, and his alone, in the 
dwelling. 

Besides the parchments which were nearest the top, 
as most in use, there were three books, much worn and 
decayed, which had been preserved, more by accident 
than by care, from the libraries of the ancients. One 
was an abridged history of Rome, the other a similar 
account of English history, the third a primer of science 
or knowledge ; all three, indeed, being books which, 
among the ancients, were used for teaching children, and 
which, by the men of those days, would have been cast 
aside with contempt. 

Exposed for years in decaying houses, rain and mildew 



SIR FELIX 6i 

had spotted and stained their pages ; the covers had 
rotted away these hundred years, and were now supplied 
by a broad sheet of limp leather with wide margins far 
overlapping the edges ; many of the pages were quite 
gone, and others torn by careless handling. The abridg- 
ment of Roman history had been scorched by a forest 
fire, and the charred edges of the leaves had dropped 
away in semicircular holes. Yet, by pondering over 
these, Felix had, as it were, reconstructed much of the 
knowledge which was the common (and therefore un- 
valued) possession of all when they were printed. 

The parchments contained his annotations, and the 
result of his thought ; they were also full of extracts 
from decaying volumes lying totally neglected in the 
houses of the other nobles. Most of these were of 
extreme antiquity, for when the ancients departed, the 
modern books which they had composed being left in 
decaying houses at the mercy of the weather, rotted, or 
were destroyed by the frequent grass fires. But those 
that had been preserved by the ancients in museums 
escaped for a while, and some of these yet remained 
in lumber-rooms and corners, whence they were occasion- 
ally dragged forth by the servants for greater convenience 
in lighting the fires. The young nobles, entirely devoted 
to the chase, to love intrigues, and war, overwhelmed 
Felix Aquila with ridicule when they found him poring 
over these relics, and being of a proud and susceptible 
spirit, they so far succeeded that he abandoned the open 
pursuit of such studies, and stole his knowledge by fitful 



62 AFTER LONDON 

glances when there was no one near. As among the 
ancients learning was esteemed above all things, so now, 
by a species of contrast, it was of all things the most 
despised. 

Under the books, in a corner of the chest, was a 
leather bag containing four golden sovereigns, such as 
were used by the ancients, and eighteen pieces of modern 
silver money, the debased shillings of the day, not much 
more than half of which was silver, and the rest alloy. 
The gold coins had been found while digging holes for 
the posts of a new stockade, and by the law should have 
been delivered to the Prince's treasury. All the gold 
discovered, whether in the form of coin or jewellery, was 
the property of the Prince, who was supposed to pay for 
it its value in currency. 

As the actual value of the currency was only half of 
its nominal value (and sometimes less), the transaction 
was greatly in favour of the treasury. Such was the 
scarcity of gold that the law was strictly enforced, and 
had there been the least suspicion of the fact, the house 
would have been ransacked from the cellars to the roof. 
Imprisonment and fine would have been the inevitable 
fate of Felix, and the family would very probably have 
suffered for the fault of one of its members. But, inde- 
pendent and determined to the last degree, Felix ran any 
risk rather than surrender that which he had found, and 
which he deemed his own. This unbending independence 
and prids of spirit, together with scarce concealed con- 
tempt for others, had resulted in almost isolating him 



SIR FELIX 63 

from the youth of his own age, and had caused him to 
be regarded with dislike by the elders. He was rarely, if 
ever, asked to join the chase, and still more rarely invited 
to the festivities and amusements provided in adjacent 
houses, or to the grander entertainments of the higher 
nobles. Too quick to take offence where none was 
really intended, he fancied that many bore him ill-will 
who had scarcely given him a passing thought. He 
could not forgive the coarse jokes uttered upon his per- 
sonal appearance by men of heavier build, who despised 
so slender a stripling. 

He would rather be alone than join their company, and 
would not compete with them in any of their sports, so 
that when his absence from the arena v/as noticed, it was 
attributed to weakness or cowardice. These imputations 
stung him deeply, driving him to brood within himself 
He was never seen in the courtyards or ante-rooms at the 
palace, nor following in the train of the Prince, as was 
the custom with the youthful nobles. The servility of the 
court angered and disgusted him ; the eagerness of strong 
men to carry a cushion or fetch a dog annoyed him. 

There were those who observed this absence from the 
crowd in the ante-rooms. In the midst of so much 
intrigue and continual striving for power, designing men, 
on the one hand, were ever on the alert for what they 
imagined would prove willing instruments; and on the 
other, the Prince's councillors kept a watchful eye on 
the disposition of everyone of the least consequence ; so 
that, although but twenty-five, Felix was already down 



64 AFTER LONDON 

in two lists, the one at the palace, of persons whose 
views, if not treasonable, were doubtful, and the other, 
in the hands of a possible pretender, as a discontented 
and therefore useful man. Felix was entirely ignorant 
that he had attracted so mucb observation. He supposed 
himself simply despised and ignored ; he cherished no 
treason, had not the slightest sympathy with any pretender, 
held totally aloof from intrigue, and his reveries, if they 
were ambitious, concerned only himself. 

But the most precious of the treasures in the chest were 
eight or ten small sheets of parchment, each daintily 
rolled and fastened with a ribbon, letters from Aurora 
Thyma, who had also given him the ivory cross on the wall. 
It was of ancient workmanship, a relic of the old world. 
A compass, a few small tools (valuable because preserved 
for so many years, and not now to be obtained for any 
consideration), and a magnifying glass, a relic also of the 
ancients, completed the contents of the chest. 

Upon a low table by the bedstead were a flint and steel 
and tinder, and an earthenware oil lamp, not intended to 
be carried about. There, too, lay his knife, with a buck- 
horn hilt, worn by everyone in the belt, and his forester's 
axe, a small tool, but extremely useful in the woods, 
without which, indeed, progress was often impossible. 
These were in the belt, which, as he undressed, he had 
cast upon the table, together with his purse, in which 
were about a dozen copper coins, not very regular in 
shape, and stamped on one side only. The table was 
formed of two short hewn planks, scarcely smoothed, 



SIR FELIX 65 

raised on similar planks (on edge) at each end, in fact, a 
larger form. 

From a peg driven into the wall hung a disc of brass by 
a thin leathern lace ; this disc, polished to the last degree, 
answered as a mirror. The only other piece of furniture, 
if so it could be called, was a block of wood at the side of 
the table, used as a chair. In the corner, between the 
table and the window, stood a long yew bow, and a 
quiver full of arrows ready for immediate use, besides 
which three or four sheaves lay on the floor. A cross- 
bow hung on a wooden peg ; the bow was of wood, 
and, therefore, not very powerful ; bolts and square- 
headed quarrels were scattered carelessly on the floor 
under it. 

Six or seven slender darts used for casting with the 
hand, as javelins, stood in another corner by the door, and 
two stouter boar spears. By the wall a heap of nets lay 
in apparent confusion, some used for partridges, some cf 
coarse twine for bush-hens ; another, lying a little apart, 
for fishes. Near these the component parts of two 
turkey-traps were strewn about, together with a small 
round shield or targe, such as are used by swordsmen, 
snares of wire, and, in an open box, several chisels, gouges, 
and other tools. 

A blowtube was fastened to three pegs, so that it might 
not warp, a hunter's horn hung from another, and on the 
floor were a number of arrows in various stages of manu- 
facture, some tied to the straightening rod, some with the 
feathers already attached, and some hardly shaped from the 

5 



66 AFTER LONDON 

elder or aspen log. A heap of skins iilled the third corner, 
and beside them were numerous stag's horns, and two of 
the white cow, but none yet of the much dreaded and 
much desired white bull. A few peacock feathers were 
there also, rare and difficult to get, and intended for 
Aurora. 

Round one footpost of the bed was a long coil of thin 
hide — a lasso, and on another was suspended an iron cap, 
or visorless helmet. 

There was no sword or lance. Indeed, of all these 
weapons and implements, none seemed in use, to judge bjr 
the dust that had gathered upon them, and the rusted 
edges, except the bow and crossbow and one of the boar 
spears. The bed itself was very low, framed of wood, 
thick and solid ; the clothes were of the coai^est linen and 
wool; there were furs for warmth in winter, but these 
were not required in May. There was no carpet, nor any 
substitute for it ; the walls were whitewashed ; ceiling 
there was none : the worm-eaten rafters were visible, and 
the roof-tree. But on the table was a large earthenware 
bowl, full of meadow orchis, bluebells, and a bunch of 
may in flower. 

His hat, wide in the brim, lay on the floor; his doublet 
was on the wooden block or seat, with the long tight- 
fitting trousers, which showed every muscle of the limb, 
and by them high shoes of tanned but unblacked leather. 
His short cloak hung on a wooden peg against the door, 
which was ^tened with a broad bolt of oak. The 
parchment in the recess of the window at which he had 



THE HOUSE OF AQUILA 67 

been working just before retiring was covered with rough 
sketches, evidently sections of a design for a ship or gallejr 
propdled by oars. 

The square spot of light upon the wall slowly moved 
as the sun rose higher, till the ivory cross was left in 
shadow, but still the slumberer slept on, heedless, too, of 
the twittering of the swallows under the eaves, and the 
call of the cuckoo not &r distant. 



CHAPTER n. 

THE HOUSE OF AQUILA. 

Pr£semtly there came the sound of a creaking axle, which 
grew louder and louder as the waggon drew nearer, till it 
approached to a shriek. The sleeper moved xmeasily, but 
recognising the noise even in his dreams, did not wake. 
The horrible sounds stopped ; there was the soimd of 
voices, as if two persons, one without and one within the 
wall, were hailing each other ; a gate swung open, and 
the wa^on came past under the very window of the 
bedroom. Even habit could not enable Felix to entirely 
withstand so piercing a noise when almost in his ears. 
He sat up a minute, and glanced at the square of light on 
the wall to guess the time by its position. 

In another minute or two the squeaking of the axle 
ceased, as the waggon reached the storehouses, and he 
immediately returned to the pillow. Without, and just 
beneath the window, there ran a road or way, which in 

5—2 



68 AFTER LONDON 

part divided the enclosure into two portions ; the dwelling- 
house and its offices being on one side, the granaries and 
storehouses on the other. But a few yards to the left of 
his room, a strong gate in the enclosing wall gave entrance 
to this roadway. It was called the Maple Gate, because 
a small maple-tree grew near outside. The wall, which 
surrounded the whole place at a distance of eight or ten 
yards from the buildings, was of brick, and about nine 
feet high, with a ditch without. 

It was partly embattled, and partly loopholed, and a 
banquette of earth rammed hard ran all round inside, so 
that the defenders might discharge darts or arrows through 
the embrasures, and step down out of sight to prepare a 
fresh supply. At each corner there was a large platform, 
where a considerable number of men could stand and 
command the approaches ; there were, however, no 
bastions or flanking towers. On the roof of the dwelling- 
house a similar platform had been prepared, protected by 
a parapet ; from which height the entire enclosure could 
be overlooked. 

Another platform, though at a less height, was on the 
roof of the retainers' lodgings, so placed as especially to 
command the second gate. Entering by the Maple Gate, 
the dwelling-house was on the right hand, and the 
granaries and general storehouses on the left, the latter 
built on three sides of a square. Farther on, on the same 
side, were the stables, and near them the forge and work- 
shops. Beyond these, again, were the lodgings of the 
retainers and labourers, near which, in the corner, was the 



THE HOUSE OF AQUILA 69 

South Gate, from which the South Road led to the cattle- 
pens and farms, and out to the south. 

Upon the right hand, after the dwelling-house, and 
connected with it, came the steward's stores, where the 
iron tools and similar valuable articles of metal were kept. 
Then, after a covered passage-way, the kitchen and general 
hall, under one roof with the house. The house fronted 
in the opposite direction to the roadway ; there was a 
narrow green lawn between it and the enceinte, or wall, 
and before the general hall and kitchens a gravelled court. 
This was parted from the lawn by palings, so that the 
house folk enjoyed privacy, and yet were close to their 
servitors. The place was called the Old House, for it 
dated back to the time of the ancients, and the Aquilas 
were proud of the simple designation of their fortified 
residence. 

Felix's window was almost exactly opposite the entrance 
to the storehouse or granary yard, so that the waggon, 
after passing it, had to go but a little distance, and then, 
turning to the left, was drawn up before the doors of the 
warehouse. This waggon was low, built for the carriage 
of goods only, of hewn plank scarcely smooth, and the 
wheels were solid ; cut, in fact, from the butt of an elm 
tree. Unless continually greased the squeaking of such 
wheels is terrible, and the carters frequently forgot their 
grease-horns. 

Much of the work of the farm, such as the carting of 
hay and corn in harvest-time, was done upon sleds ; the 
waggons (there were but few of them) being reserved for 



70 AFTER LONDON 

longer journeys on the rough roads. This waggon, laden 
with wool, some of the season's clip, had come in four 
or five miles from an out-lying cot, or sheep-pen, at the 
foot of the hills. In the buildings round the granary 
yard there were stored not only the corn and flour re- 
quired for the retainers (who might at any moment 
become a besieged garrison), but the most valuable pro- 
ducts of the estate, the wool, hides, and tanned leather 
from the tan-pits, besides a great quantity of bacon and 
salt beef; indeed, every possible article that could be 
needed. 

These buildings were put together with wooden pins, 
on account of the scarcity of iron, and were all (dwelling- 
house included) roofed with red tile. Lesser houses, 
cottages, and sheds at a distance were thatched, but in 
an enclosure tiles were necessary, lest, in case of an attack, 
fire should be thrown. 

Half an hour later, at six o'clock, the watchman blew 
his horn as loudly as possible for some two or three 
minutes, the hollow sound echoing through the place. 
He took the time by the sundial on the wall, it being a 
summer morning ; in winter he was guided by the posi- 
tion of the stars, and often, when sun or stars were 
obscured, went by guess. The house horn was blown 
thrice a day : at six in the morning, as a signal that the 
day had begun, at noon as a signal for dinner, at six in 
the afternoon as a signal that the day (except in harvest- 
time) was over. The watchmen went their round about 
the enclosure all night long, relieved every three hours. 



THE HOUSE OF AQUILA 71 

armed with spears, and attended by mastiffs. By day 
one sufficed, and his station was then usually (though not 
always) on the highest part of the roof. 

The horn re-awoke Felix ; it was the note by which 
he had been accustomed to rise for years. He threw 
open the oaken shutters, and the sunlight and the fresh 
breeze of the May morning came freely into the room. 
There was now the buzz of voices without, men unload- 
ing the wool, men at the workshops and in the granaries, 
and others waiting at the door of the steward's store for 
the tools, which he handed out to them. Iron being so 
scarce, tools were a temptation, and were carefully locked 
up each night, and given out again in the morning. 

Felix went to the ivory cross and kissed it in affec- 
tionate recollection of Aurora, and then looked towards 
the open window, in the pride and joy of youth turning 
to the East, the morning, and the light. Before he had 
half dressed there came a knock and then an impatient 
kick at the door. He unbarred it, and his brother Oliver 
entered. Oliver had been for his swim in the river. He 
excelled in swimming, as, indeed, in every manly exercise, 
being as active and energetic as Felix was outwardly 
languid. 

His room was only across the landing, his door just 
opposite. It also was strewn with implements and 
weapons. But there was a far greater number of tools; 
he was an expert and artistic workman, and his table and 
his seat, unlike the rude blocks in Felix's room, were 
tastefully carved. His seat, too, had a back, and he had 



72 AFTER LONDON 

even a couch of his own construction. By his bedhead 
hung his sword, his most valued and most valuable posses- 
sion. It was one which had escaped the dispersion of the 
ancients ; it had been ancient even in their days, and of 
for better work than they themselves produced. 

Broad, long, straight, and well-balanced, it appeared 
capable of cutting through helmet and mail, when wielded 
by Oliver's sturdy arm. Such a sword could not have 
been purchased for money; money, indeed, had often 
been offered for it in vain ; persuasion, and even covert 
threats from those higher in authority who coveted it, 
were alike wasted. The sword had been in the family 
for generations, and when the Baron grew too old, or 
rather when he turned away from active life, the second 
son claimed it as the fittest to use it. The claim was 
tacitly allowed; at all events, he had it, and meant to 
keep it. 

In a corner stood his lance, long and sharp, for use on 
horseback, and by it his saddle and accoutrements. The 
helmet and the shirt of mail, the iron greaves and spurs, 
the short iron mace to hang at the saddle-bow, spoke of 
the knight, the man of horses and war. 

Oliver's whole delight was in exercise and sport. The 
boldest rider, the best swimmer, the best at leaping, at 
hurling the dart or the heavy hammer, ever ready for tilt 
or tournament, his whole life was spent with horse, 
sword, and lance. A year younger than Felix, he was at 
least ten years physically older. He measured several 
inches more round the chest : his massive shoulders and 



THE HOUSE OF AQUILA 73 

immense arms, brown and hairy, his powerful limbs, 
tower-like neck, and somewhat square jaw were the 
natural concomitants of enormous physical strength. 

All the blood and bone and thew and sinew of the 
house seemed to have fallen to his share ; all the fiery, 
restless spirit and defiant temper ; all the utter reckless- 
ness and warrior's instinct. He stood every inch a man, 
with dark, curling, short-cut hair, brown cheek and 
Roman chin, trimmed moustache, brown eye, shaded by 
long eyelashes and well-marked brows ; every inch a 
natural king of men. That very physical preponderance 
and animal beauty was perhaps his bane, for his comrades 
were so many, and his love adventures so innumerable, 
that they left him no time for serious ambition. 

Between the brothers there was the strangest mixture 
•of affection and repulsion. The elder smiled at the 
excitement and energy of the younger ; the younger 
■openly despised the studious habits and solitary life of the 
€lder. In time of real trouble and difficulty they would 
have been drawn together ; as it was, there was little 
•communion ; the one went his way, and the other his. 
There was perhaps rather an inclination to detract from 
•each other's achievements than to praise them, a species 
•of jealousy or envy without personal dislike, if that can be 
understood. They were good friends, and yet kept apart. 

Oliver made friends of all, and thwacked and banged 
his enemies into respectful silence. Felix made friends of 
none, and was equally despised by nominal friends and 
actual enemies. Oliver was open and jovial j Felix 



74 AFTER LONDON 

reserved and contemptuous, or sarcastic in manner. His 
slender frame, too tall for his width, was against him ; he 
could neither lift the weights nor undergo the muscular 
strain readily borne by Oliver. It was easy to see that 
Felix, although nominally the eldest, had not yet reached 
his full development. A light complexion, fair hair and 
eyes, were also against him ; where Oliver made con- 
quests, Felix was unregarded. He laughed, but perhaps 
his secret pride was hurt. 

There was but one thing Felix could do in the way of 
exercise and sport. He could shoot with the bow in a 
manner till then entirely unapproached. His arrows fell 
unerringly in the centre cf the target, the swift deer and 
the hare were struck down with ease, and even the wood- 
pigeon in ftiU flight. Nothing was safe from those terrible 
arrows. For this, and this only, his fame had gone forth ; 
and even this was made a source of bitterness to him. 

The nobles thought no arms worthy of men of descent 
but the sword and lance ; missile weapons, as the dart and 
arrow, were the arms of retainers. His degradation was 
completed when, at a tournament, where he had mingled 
with the crowd, the Prince sent for him to shoot at the 
butt, and display his skill among the soldiery, instead of 
with the knights in the tilting ring. Felix shot, indeed, 
but shut his eyes that his arrow might go wide, and was 
jeered at as a failure even in that ignoble competition. 
Only by an iron self-control did he refrain that day from 
planting one of the despised shafts in the Prince's eye. 
But when Oliver joked him about his failure, Felix 



THE HOUSE OF AQUILA 75 

asked him to hang up his breastplate at two hundred yards. 
He did so, and in an instant a shaft was sent through it. 
After that Oliver held his peace, and in his heart began 
to think that the bow was a dangerous weapon. 

" So you are late again this morning," said Oliver, 
leaning against the recess of the window, and placing his 
arms on it. The sunshine fell on his curly dark hair, 
still wet from the river. " Studying last night, I suppose ?" 
turning over the parchment. " Why didn't you ride into 
town with me ?" 

"The water must have been cold this morning?" said 
Felix, ignoring the question. 

" Yes ; there was a slight frost, or something like it, 
very early, and a mist on the surface ; but it was splendid 
in the pool. Why don't you get up and come ? You 
used to." 

" I can swim," said Felix laconically, implying that, 
having learnt the art, it no more tempted him. " You 
were late last night ; I heard you put Night in." 

"We came home in style ; it was rather dusky, but 
Night galloped the Green Miles." 

" Mind she doesn't put her hoof in a rabbit's hole some 
night." 

" Not that. She can see like a cat. I believe we got 
over the twelve miles in less than an hour. Sharp work, 
considering the hills. You don't inquire for the news." 

" What's the news to me ?" 

" Well, there was a quarrel at the palace yesterday 
afternoon. The Prince told Louis he was a double-faced 



76 AFTER LONDON 

traitor, and Louis told the Prince he was a suspicious fool. 
It nearly came to blows, and Louis is banished." 

" For the fiftieth time." 

" This time it is more serious." 

" Don't believe it. He will be sent for again this 
morning ; cannot you see why ?" 

« No." 

" If the Prince is really suspicious, he will never send 
his brother into the country, where he might be resorted 
to by discontented people. He will keep him close at 
hand." 

"I wish the quarrelling would cease; it spoils half the 
fun ; one's obliged to creep about the court and speak in 
whispers, and you can't tell whom you are talking to ; 
they may turn on you if you say too much. There is no 
dancing either. I hate this moody state. I wish they 
would either dance or fight." 

« Fight ! who ?" 

" Anybody. There's some more news, but you don't 
care." 

« No. I do not." 

"Why don't you go and live in the woods all by your- 
self?" said Oliver, in some heat. 

Felix laughed. 

" Tell me your news. I am listening." 

*' The Irish landed at Blacklands the day before yester- 
day, and burnt Robert's place ; they tried Letburn, but 
the people there had been warned, and were ready. And 
there's an envoy from Sypolis arrived ; some think the 



THE HOUSE OF AQUILA 77 

Assembly has broken up ; they were all at daggers drawn. 
So much for the Holy League." 

" So much for the Holy League," repeated Felix. 

"What are you going to do to-day?" asked Oliver,^ 
after awhile. 

" I am going down to my canoe," said Felix. 

" I will go with you ; the trout are rising. Have you 
got any hooks ?" 

" There are some in the box there, I think ; take the 
tools out." 

Oliver searched among the tools in the open box, all 
rusty and covered with dust, while Felix finished dressing, 
put away his parchment, and knotted the thong round his. 
chest. He found some hooks at the bottom, and after 
breakfast they walked out together, Oliver carrying his 
rod, and a boar spear, and Felix a boar spear also, in 
addition to a small flag basket with some chisels and 
gouges. 

CHAPTER in. 

THE STOCKADE. 

Whfn Oliver and Felix started, they left Philip, the 
third and youngest of the three brothers, still at breakfast. 
They turned to the left, on getting out of doors, and 
again to the left, through the covered passage between the 
steward's store and the kitchens. Then, crossing the 
waggon yard, they paused a moment to glance in at the 
forge, where two men were repairing part of a plough. 



78 AFTER LONDON 

Oliver must also look for a moment at his mare, after 
which they directed their steps to the South Gate. The 
massive oaken door was open, the bolts having been drawn 
back at hornblow. There was a guard-room on one side 
of the gate under the platform in the corner, where there 
was always supposed to be a watch. 

But in times of peace, and when there were no appre- 
hensions of attack, the men whose turn it was to watch 
there were often called away for a time to assist in some 
labour going forward, and at that moment were helping 
to move the woolpacks farther into the warehouse. Still 
they were close at hand, and had the day watchman or 
warder, who was now on the roof, blown his horn, would 
have rushed direct to the gate. Felix did not like this 
relaxation of discipline. His precise ideas were upset at 
the absence of the guard ; method, organization, and 
precision, were the characteristics of his mind, and this 
kind of uncertainty irritated him. 

" I wish Sir Constans would insist on the guard being 
kept," he remarked. Children, in speaking of their 
parents, invariably gave them their titles. Now their 
father's title was properly " my lord," as he was a baron, 
and one of the most ancient. But he had so long abne- 
gated the exercise of his rights and privileges, sinking the 
noble in the mechanician, that men had forgotten the 
proper style in which they should address him. "Sir" 
was applied to all nobles, whether they possessed estates 
or not. The brothers were invariably addressed as Sir 
Felix or Sir Oliver. It marked, therefore, the low 



THE STOCKADE 79 

estimation in which the Baron was held when even his 
own sons spoke of him by that title. 

Oliver, though a military man by profession, laughed at 
Felix's strict view of the guards' duties. Familiarity with 
danger, and natural carelessness, had rendered him con- 
temptuous of it. 

"There's no risk," said he, "that I can see. Who 
could attack us ? The Bushmen would never dream of 
it ; the Romany would be seen coming days beforehand ; 
we are too far from the Lake for the pirates ; and as we 
are not great people, as we might have been, we need 
dread no private enmity. Besides which, any assailants 
must pass the stockades first." 

" Quite true. Still I don't like it ; it is a loose way of 
doing things." 

Outside the gate they followed the waggon track, or 
South Road, for about half a mile. It crossed meadows 
parted by low hedges, and they remarked, as they went, 
on the shortness of the grass, which, for want of rain, was 
not nearly fit for mowing. Last year there had been a 
bad wheat crop ; this year there was at present scarcely 
any grass. These matters were of the highest importance ; 
peace or war, famine or plenty, might depend upon the 
weather of the next few months. 

The meadows, besides being divided by the hedges, 
kept purposely cropped low, were surrounded, like all the 
cultivated lands, by high and strong stockades. Half a 
mile down the South Road they left the track, and follow- 
ing a footpath some few hundred yards, came to the pool 



8o AFTER LONDON 

where Oliver had bathed that morning. The river, which 
ran through the enclosed grounds, was very shallow, for they 
were near its source in the hills, but just there it widened, 
and filled a depression fifty or sixty yards across, which 
was deep enough for swimming. Beyond the pool the 
stream curved and left the enclosure ; the stockade, or at 
least an open work of poles, was continued across it. This 
work permitted the stream to flow freely, but was suffi- 
ciently close to exclude anyone who might attempt to 
enter by creeping up the bed of the river. 

They crossed the river just above the pool by some 
stepping-stones, large blocks rolled in for the purpose, and 
approached the stockade. It was formed of small but 
entire trees; young elms, firs, or very thick ash-poles, 
driven in a double row into the earth, the first or inner 
row side by side, the outer row filling the interstices, and 
the whole bound together at the bottom by split willow 
woven in and out. This interweaving extended only 
about three feet up, and was intended first to bind the 
structure together, and secondly to exclude small animals 
which might creep in between the stakes. The reason it 
was not carried all up was that it should not afford a 
footing to human thieves desirous of climbing over. 

The smooth poles by themselves afforded no notch or 
foothold for a Bushman's naked foot. They rose nine or 
ten feet above the willow, so that the total height of the 
palisade was about twelve feet, and the tops of the stakes 
were sharpened. The construction of such palisades 
required great labour, and could be carried out only by 



THE STOCKADE 8i 

those who could command the services of numbers of 
men, so that a small proprietor was impossible, unless 
within the walls of a town. This particular stockade 
was by no means an extensive one, in comparison with 
the estates of more prominent nobles. 

The enclosure immediately surrounding the Old House 
was of an irregular oval shape, perhaps a mile long, and 
not quite three-quarters of a mile wide, the house being 
situate towards the northern and higher end of the oval. 
The river crossed it, entering on the west and leaving on 
the eastern side. The enclosure was for the greater part 
meadow and pasture, for here the cattle were kept which 
supplied the house with milk, cheese, and butter, while 
others intended for slaughter were driven in here for the 
last month of fattening. 

The horses in actual use for riding, or for the waggons, 
were also turned out here temporarily. There were two 
pens and rickyards within it, one beside the river, one 
farther down. The South Road ran almost down the 
centre, passing both rickyards, and leaving the stockade at 
the southern end by a gate, called the barrier. At the 
northern extremity of the oval the palisade passed within 
three hundred yards of the house, and there was another 
barrier, to which the road led from the Maple Gate, 
which has been mentioned. From thence it went across 
the hills to the town of Ponze. Thus, anyone approach- 
ing the Old House had first to pass the barrier and get 
inside the palisade. 

At each barrier there was a cottage and a guard-room, 

6 



82 AFTER LONDON 

though, as a matter of fact, the watch was kept in peaceful 
times even more carelessly than at the inner gates of the 
wall about the house itself. Much the same plan, with 
local variations, was pursued on the other estates of the 
province, though the stockade at the Old House was 
remarkable for the care and skill with which it had been 
constructed. Part of the duty of the watchman on the 
roof was to keep an eye on the barriers, which he could 
see from his elevated position. 

In case of an incursion of gipsies, or any danger, the 
guard at the barrier was supposed to at once close the 
gate, blow a horn, and exhibit a flag. Upon hearing the 
horn or observing the flag, the warder on the roof raised 
the alarm, and assistance was sent. Such was the system, 
but as no attack had taken place for some years the 
discipline had grown lax. 

After crossing on the stepping-stones Oliver and Felix 
were soon under the stockade, which ran high above them, 
and was apparently as difficult to get out of as to get 
into. By the strict law of the estate, any person who 
left the stockade except by the public barrier rendered 
himself liable to the lash or imprisonment. Any person, 
even a retainer, endeavouring to enter from without by 
pole, ladder, or rope, might be killed with an arrow or 
dart, putting himself into the position of an outlaw. In 
practice, of course, this law was frequently evaded. It 
did not apply to the family of the owner. 

Under some bushes by the palisade was a ladder of 
rope ; the rungs, however, of wood. Putting his fishing- 



THE STOCKADE 83 

tackle and boar spear down, Oliver took the ladder and 
threw the end over the stockade. He then picked up a 
pole with a fork at the end from the bushes, left there, of 
course, for the purpose, and with the fork pushed the 
rungs over till the ladder was adjusted, half within and 
half without the palisade. It hung by the wooden rungs, 
which caught the tops of the stakes. He then went up, 
and when at the top, leant over and drew up the outer 
part of the ladder one rung, which he put the inner side 
of the palisade, so that on transferring his weight to the 
outer side it might uphold him. Otherwise the ladder, 
when he got over the points of the stakes, must have 
slipped the distance between one rung and a second. 

Having adjusted this, he got over, and Felix, carrying 
up the spears and tackle, handed them to him. Felix 
followed, and thus in three minutes they were on the 
outer side of the stockade. Originally the ground for 
twenty yards, all round outside the stockade, had been 
cleared of trees and bushes that they might not harbour 
vermin, or thorn-hogs, or facilitate the approach of human 
enemies. Part of the weekly work of the bailiffs was to 
walk round the entire circumference of the stockade to 
see that it was in order, and to have any bushes removed 
that began to grow up. As with other matters, however, 
in the lapse of time the bailiffs became remiss, and under 
the easy, and perhaps too merciful rule of Sir Constans, 
were not recalled to their duties with sufficient sharpness. 

Brambles and thorns and other underwood had begun 
to cover the space that should have been open, and young 

6—2 



84 AFTER LONDON 

sapling oaks had risen from dropped acorns. Felix pointed 
this out to Oliver, who seldom accompanied him ; he was 
indeed rather glad of the opportunity to do so, as Oliver 
had more interest with Sir Constans than himself. Oliver 
admitted it showed great negligence, but added that after 
all it really did not matter. " What I wish," said he, 
" is that Sir Constans would go to Court, and take his 
proper position." 

Upon this they were well agreed ; it was, in fact, 
almost the only point upon which all three brothers did 
agree. They sometimes talked about it till they separated 
in a furious temper, not with each other but with him. 
There was a distinct track of footsteps through the narrow 
band of low brambles and underwood between the stockade 
and the forest. This had been made by Felix in his daily 
visits to his canoe. 

The forest there consisted principally of hawthorn-trees 
and thorn thickets, with some scattered oaks and ashes ; 
the timber was sparse, but the fern was now fast rising up 
so thick that in the height of the summer it would be 
difficult to walk through it. The tips of the fronds 
unrolling were now not up to the knee ; then the brake 
would reach to the shoulder. The path wound round the 
thickets (the blackthorn being quite impenetrable except 
with the axe) and came again to the river some four or five 
hundred yards from the stockade. The stream, which 
ran from west to east through the enclosure, here turned 
and went due south. 

On the bank Felix had found a fine black poplar, the 



THE STOCKADE 85 

largest and straightest and best grown of that sort for 
some distance round, and this he had selected for his 
canoe. Stones broke the current here into eddies, below 
which there were deep holes and gullies where alders hung 
over, and an ever-rustling aspen spread the shadow of its 
boughs across the water. The light-coloured mud, 
formed of disintegrated chalk, on the farther and shallower 
side was only partly hidden by flags and sedges, which 
like a richer and more alluvial earth. Nor did the bushes 
grow very densely on this soil over the chalk, so that 
there was more room for casting the fly than is usually 
the case where a stream runs through a forest. Oliver, 
after getting his tackle in order, at once began to cast, 
while Felix, hanging his doublet on an oft-used branch, 
and leaning his spear against a tree, took his chisels and 
gouge from the flag basket. 

He had chosen the black poplar for the canoe because 
it was the lightest wood, and would float best. To fell 
so large a tree had been a great labour, for the axes were 
of poor quality, cut badly, and often required sharpening. 
He could easily have ordered half-a-dozen men to throw 
the tree, and they would have obeyed immediately ; but 
then the individuality and interest of the work would 
have been lost. Unless he did it himself its importance 
and value to him would have been diminished. It had 
now been down some weeks, had been hewn into outward 
shape, and the larger part of the interior slowly dug 
away with chisel and gouge. 

He had commenced while the hawthorn was just 



86 AFTER LONDON 

putting forth its first spray, when the thickets and the 
trees were yet bare. Now the may bloom scented the 
air, the forest was green, and his work approached com- 
pletion. There remained, indeed, but some final shaping 
and rounding off, and the construction, or rather cutting 
out, of a secret locker in the stern. This locker was 
nothing more than a square aperture chiselled out like a 
mortice, entering not from above but parallel with the 
bottom, and was to be closed with a tight-fitting piece of 
wood driven in by force of mallet. 

A little paint would then conceal the slight chinks, and 
the boat might be examined in every possible way 
without any trace of this hiding-place being observed. 
The canoe was some eleven feet long, and nearly three 
feet in the beam ; it tapered at either end, so that it might 
be propelled backwards or forwards without turning, and 
stem and stern (interchangeable definitions in this case) 
each rose a few inches higher than the general gunwale. 
The sides were about two inches thick, the bottom three, 
so that although dug out from light wood the canoe was 
rather heavy. 

At first Felix constructed a light shed of fir-poles roofed 
with spruce-fir branches over the log, so that he might 
work sheltered from the bitter winds of the early spring. 
As the warmth increased he had taken the shed down, and 
now as the sun rose higher was glad of the shade of an 
adjacent beech. 



THE CANOE 87 

CHAPTER IV. 

THE CANOE. 

Felix had scarcely worked half an hour before Oliver 
returned and threw himself on the ground at full length. 
He had wearied of fishing ; the delicate adjustment of the 
tackle and the care necessary to keep the hook and line 
from catching in the branches had quickly proved too 
much for his patience. He lay on the grass, his feet 
towards the stream which ran and bubbled beneath, and 
watched Felix chipping out the block intended to fit into 
the secret opening or locker. 

" It is nearly finished, then ?" he said presently. " What 
a time you have been at it 1" 

" Nearly three months." 

" Why did you make it so big ? It is too big." 

" Is it really ? Perhaps I want to put some things in it." 

" Oh, I see ; cargo. But where are you going to 
launch it ?" 

" Below the stones there." 

" Well, you won't be able to go far ; there's an old fir 
across the river down yonder, and a hollow willow has 
fallen in. Besides, the stream's too shallow; you'll take 
ground before you get half a mile." 

" Shall I ?" 

" Of course you will. That boat will float six inches 
deep by herself, and I'm sure there's not six inches by the 
Thorns." 

"Very awkward." 



88 AFTER LONDON 

"Why didn't you have a hide boat made, with a 
willow framework and leather cover ? Then you might 
perhaps get down the river by hauling it past the shallows 
and the fallen trees. In two days' time you would be in 
the hands of the gipsies." 

*' And you would be Sir Constans' heir !" 

" Now, come, I say ; that's too bad. You know I 
didn't mean that. Besides, I think I'm as much his heir 
as you now " (looking at his sinewy arm) ; " at least, he 
doesn't listen much to you. I mean, the river runs into 
the gipsies' country as straight as it can go." 

"Just so." 

" Well, you seem very cool about it !'* 

" I am not going down the river.'* 

" Then, where are you going ?" 

" On the Lake." 

« Whew 1" (whistling). " Pooh ! Why, the Lake's 
— let me see, to Heron Bay it's quite fifteen miles. You 
can't paddle across the land." 

*' But I can put the canoe on a cart." 

" Aha ! why didn't you tell me before ?" 

" Because I did not wish anyone to know. Don't say 
anything," 

" Not I. But what on earth, or rather, on water, are 
you driving at ? Where are you going ? What's the 
canoe for ?" 

" I am going a voyage. But I will tell you all when 
it is ready. Meantime, I rely on you to keep silence. 
The rest think the boat is for the river.'* 



THE CANOE 89 

" I will not say a word. But why did you not have a 
hide boat ?" 

" They are not strong enough. They can't stand 
knocking about." 

"If you want to go a voyage (where to, I can't 
imagine), why not take a passage on board a ship ?" 

*' I want to go my own way. They will only go 
theirs. Nor do I like the company." 

" Well, certainly the sailors are the roughest lot I 
know. Still, that would not have hurt you. You are 
rather dainty, Sir Felix 1" 

" My daintiness does not hurt you." 

« Can't I speak ?" (sharply). 

" Please yourself." 

A silence. A cuckoo sang in the forest, and was 
answered from a tree within the distant palisade. Felix 
chopped away slowly and deliberately ; he was not a good 
workman. Oliver watched his progress with contempt ; 
he could have put it into shape in half the time. Felix 
could draw, and design ; he could invent, but he was not 
a practical workman, to give speedy and accurate effect 
to his ideas. 

" My opinion is," said Oliver, " that that canoe will 
not float upright. It's one-sided." 

Felix, usually so self-controlled, could not refrain from 
casting his chisel down angrily. But he picked it up 
again, and said nothing. This silence had more influence 
upon Oliver, whose nature was very generous, than the 
bitterest retort. He sat up on the sward. 



go AFTER LONDON 

" I will help launch it," he said. " We could manage 
it between us, if you don't want a lot of the fellows down 
here." 

« Thank you. I should like that best." 

" And I will help you with the cart when you start." 

Oliver rolled over on his back, and looked up idly at 
the white flecks of cloud sailing at a great height. 

" Old Mouse is a wretch not to give me a command," 
he said presently. 

Felix looked round involuntarily, lest anyone should 
have heard ; Mouse was the nick-name for the Prince. 
Like all who rule with irresponsible power, the Prince 
had spies everywhere. He was not a cruel man, nor a 
benevolent, neither clever nor foolish, neither strong nor 
weak; simply an ordinary, a very ordinary being, who 
chanced to sit upon a throne because his ancestors did, 
and not from any personal superiority. 

He was at times much influenced by those around him ; 
at others he took his own course, right or wrong ; at 
another he let matters drift. There was never any telling 
in the morning what he might do towards night, for 
there was no vein of will or bias running through his 
character. In fact, he lacked character ; he was all un- 
certainty, except in jealousy of his supremacy. Possibly 
some faint perception of his own incapacity, of the feeble 
grasp he had upon the State, that seemed outwardly so 
completely his, occasionally crossed his mind. 

Hence the furious scenes with his brother ; hence the 
sudden imprisonments and equally sudden pardons ; the 



THE CANOE gi 

■spies and eavesdroppers, the sequestration of estates for 
no apparent cause. And, following these erratic severities 
to the suspected nobles, proclamations giving privileges to 
the people, and removing taxes. But in a few^ days these 
were imposed again, and men who dared to murmur were 
beaten by the soldiers, or cast into the dungeons. Yet 
Prince Louis (the family were all of the same name) was 
not an ill-meaning man ; he often meant well, but had 
no stability or firmness of purpose. 

This was why Felix dreaded lest some chance listener 
should hear Oliver abuse him. Oliver had been in the 
army for some time ; his excellence in all arms, and 
especially with lance and sword, his acknowledged courage, 
and his noble birth, entitled him to a command, however 
lowly it might be. But he was still in the ranks, and not 
the slightest recognition had ever been taken of his feats, 
except, indeed, if whispers were true, by some sweet 
smiles from a certain lady of the palace, who admired 
knightly prowess. 

Oliver chafed under this neglect. 

" I would not say that kind of thing," remarked Felix. 
** Certainly it is annoying." 

" Annoying ! that is a mild expression. Of course, 
everyone knows the reason. If we had any money, or 
influence, it would be very diflferent. But Sir Constans 
has neither gold nor power, and he might have had both.'* 

" There was a clerk from the notary's at the house 
yesterday evening," said Felix. 

" About the debts, no doubt. Some day the cunning 



92 AFTER LONDON 

old scoundrel, when he can squeeze no more interest out 
of us, will find a legal quibble and take the lot." 

" Or put us in the Blue Chamber, the first time the 
Prince goes to war and wants money. The Blue Chamber 
will say, 'Where can we get it? Who's weakest ?' 'Why, 
Sir Constans !' * Then away with him.' " 

" Yes, that will be it. Yet I wish a war would happen ; 
there would be some chance for me. I would go with 
you in your canoe, but you are going you don't know 
where. What's your object ? Nothing. You don't 
know yourself." 

« Indeed !" 

" No, you don't ; you're a dreamer.'* 

" I am afraid it is true." 

"I hate dreams." After a pause. In a lower voice, 
" Have you any money r" 

Felix took out his purse and showed him the copper 
pieces. 

" The eldest son of Constans Aquila with ten copper 
pieces," growled Oliver, rising, but taking them all the 
same. " Lend them to me. I'll try them on the board 
to-night. Fancy me putting down copper ! It's intolerable " 
(working himself into a rage). " I'll turn bandit, and rob 
on the roads. I'll go to King Yeo and fight the Welsh. 
Confusion 1" 

He rushed into the forest, leaving his spear on the 
sward. 

Felix quietly chipped away at the block he was shaping, 
but his temper, too, was inwardly rising. The same talk. 



THE CANOE 93 

varied in detail, but the same in point, took place every 
time the brothers were together, and always with the 
same result of anger. In earlier days Sir Constans had 
been as forward in all warlike exercises as Oliver was 
now, and being possessed of extraordinary physical strength, 
took a leading part among men. Wielding his battle-axe 
with irresistible force, he distinguished himself in several 
battles and sieges. 

He had a singular talent for mechanical construction 
(the wheel by which water was drawn from the well at 
the palace was designed by him), but this very ingenuity 
was the beginning of his difficulties. During a long siege, 
he invented a machine for casting large stones against the 
walls, or rather put it together from the fragmentary 
descriptions he had seen in authors, whose works had 
almost perished before the dispersion of the ancients ; for 
he, too, had been studious in youth. 

The old Prince was highly pleased with this engine, 
which promised him speedy conquest over his enemies, 
and the destruction of their strongholds. But the nobles 
who had the hereditary command of the siege artillery, 
which consisted mainly of battering-rams, could not endure 
to see their prestige vanishing. They caballed, traduced 
the Baron, and he fell into disgrace. This disgrace, as he 
was assured by secret messages from the Prince, was but 
policy ; he would be recalled so soon as the Prince felt 
himself able to withstand the pressure of the nobles. But 
it happened that the old Prince died at that juncture, and 
the present Prince succeeded. 



94 AFTER LONDON 

The enemies of the Baron, having access to the Prince, 
obtained his confidence; the Baron was arrested and 
amerced in a heavy fine, the payment of which laid the 
foundation of those debts which had since been constantly 
increasing. He was then released, but was not for some 
two years permitted to approach the Court. Meantime, 
men of not half his descent, but with an unblushing brow 
and unctuous tongue, had become the favourites at the 
palace of the Prince, who, as said before, was not bad, but 
the mere puppet of circumstances. 

Into competition with these vulgar flatterers Aquila 
could not enter. It was indeed pride, and nothing but 
pride, that had kept him from the palace. By slow 
degrees he had sunk out of sight, occupying himself more 
and more with mechanical inventions, and with gardening, 
till at last he had come to be regarded as no more than 
an agriculturist. Yet in this obscure condition he had 
not escaped danger. 

The common people were notoriously attached to him. 
Whether this was due to his natural kindliness, his real 
strength of intellect, and charm of manner, or whether it 
was on account of the uprightness with which he judged 
between them, or whether it was owing to all these things 
combined, certain it is that there was not a man on the 
estate that would not have died for him. Certain it is, 
too, that he was beloved by the people of the entire 
district, and more especially by the shepherds of the hills, 
who were freer and less under the control of the patrician 
caste. Instead of carrying disputes to the town, to be 



THE CANOE 95 

adjudged by the Prince's authority, many were privately 
brought to him. 

This, by degrees becoming known, excited the jealousy 
and anger of the Prince, an anger cunningly inflamed by 
the notary Francis, and by other nobles. But they hesi- 
tated to execute anything against him lest the people 
should rise, and it was doubtful, indeed, if the very 
retainers of the nobles would attack the Old House, if 
ordered. Thus the Baron's weakness was his defence. 
The Prince, to do him justice, soon forgot the matter, and 
laughed at his own folly, that he should be jealous of a man 
who was no more than an agriculturist. 

The rest were not so appeased ; they desired the Baron's 
destruction if only from hatred of his popularity, and they 
lost no opportunity of casting discredit upon him, or of 
endeavouring to alienate the affections of the people by 
representing him as a magician, a thing clearly proved by 
his machines and engines, which must have been designed 
by some supernatural assistance. But the chief, as the 
most immediate and pressing danger, was the debt to 
Francis the notary, which might at any moment be brought 
before the Court. 

Thus it was that the three sons found themselves with- 
out money or position, with nothing but a bare patent of 
nobility. The third and youngest alone had made any 
progress, if such it could be called. By dint of his own 
persistent efforts, and by enduring insults and rebuffs with 
indifference, he had at last obtained an appointment in 
that section of the Treasury which received the dues upon 



g6 AFTER LONDON 

merchandise, and regulated the imposts. He was but a 
messenger at every man's call ; his pay was not sufficient 
to obtain his food, still it was an advance, and he was in 
a government office. He could but just exist in the town, 
sleeping in a garret, where he stored the provisions he took 
in with him every Monday morning from Old House. 
He came home on the Saturday and returned to his work 
on the Monday. Even his patience was almost worn out. 
The whole place was thus falling to decay, while at the 
same time it seemed to be flowing with milk and honey, 
for under the Baron's personal attention the estate, though 
so carelessly guarded, had become a very garden. The 
cattle had increased, and were of the best kind, the horses 
were celebrated and sought for, the sheep valued, the 
crops the wonder of the province. Yet there was no 
money ; the product went to the notary. This extra- 
ordinary fertility was the cause of the covetous longing of 
the Court favourites to divide the spoil. 



CHAPTER V. 

BARON AQJJILA. 

Felix*s own position was bitter in the extreme. He felt 
he had talent. He loved deeply, he knew that he was in 
turn as deeply beloved ; but he was utterly powerless. On 
the confines of the estate, indeed, the men would run 
gladly to do his bidding. Beyond, and on his own 
account, he was helpless. Manual labour (to plough, to 



BARON AQUILA 97 

sow, to work on shipboard) could produce nothing in a 
time when almost all work was done by bondsmen or 
family retainers. The life of a hunter in the woods was 
free, but produced nothing. 

The furs he sold simply maintained him ; it was barter 
for existence, not profit. The shepherds on the hills 
roamed in comparative freedom, but they had no wealth 
except of sheep. He could not start as a merchant 
without money ; he could not enclose an estate and build a 
house or castle fit for the nuptials of a noble's daughter 
without money, or that personal influence which answers 
the same purpose ; he could not even hope to succeed to 
the hereditary estate, so deeply was it encumbered ; they 
might, indeed, at any time be turned forth. 

Slowly the iron entered into his soul. This hopeless- 
ness, helplessness, embittered every moment. His love 
increasing with the passage of time rendered his position 
hateful in the extreme. The feeling within that he had 
talent which only required opportunity stung him like a 
scorpion. The days went by, and everything remained 
the same. Continual brooding and bitterness of spirit 
went near to drive him mad. 

At last the resolution was taken, he would go forth into 
the world. That involved separation from Aurora, long 
separation, and without any communication, since letters 
could be sent only by special messenger, and how should 
he pay a messenger ? It was this terrible thought of 
separation which had so long kept him inactive. In the 
end the bitterness of hopelessness forced him to face it. He 

7 



98 AFTER LONDON 

began the canoe, but kept his purpose secret, especially 
from her, lest tears should melt his resolution. 

There were but two ways of travelling open to him : on 
foot, as the hunters did, or by the merchant vessels. The 
latter, of course, required payment, and their ways were 
notoriously coarse. If on foot he could not cross the 
Lake, nor visit the countries on either shore, nor the 
islands ; therefore he cut down the poplar and commenced 
the canoe. Whither he should go, and what he should 
do, were entirely at the mercy of circumstances. He had 
no plan, no route. 

He had a dim idea of offering his services to some 
distant king or prince, of unfolding to him the inventions 
he had made. He tried to conceal from himself that he 
would probably be repulsed and laughed at. Without 
money, without a retinue, how could he expect to be 
received or listened to ? Still, he must go ; he could not 
help himself, go he must. 

As he chopped and chipped through the long weeks of 
early spring, while the easterly winds bent the trees above 
him, till the buds unfolded and the leaves expanded — while 
his hands were thus employed, the whole map, as it were, 
of the known countries seemed to pass without volition 
before his mind. He saw the cities along the shores of 
the great Lake ; he saw their internal condition, the weak- 
ness of the social fabric, the misery of the bondsmen. The 
uncertain action of the League, the only thread which bound 
the world together ; the threatening aspect of the Cymry 
and the Irish ; the dread north, the vast northern forests, 



BARON AQUILA 99 

from which at any time invading hosts might descend on 
the fertile seuth — it all went before his eyes. 

What was there behind the immense and untraversed 
belt of forest which extended to the south, to the east, and 
west ? Where did the great Lake end ? Were the stories 
of the gold and silver mines of Devon and Cornwall true ? 
And where were the iron mines, from which the ancients 
drew their stores of metal ? 

Led by these thoughts, he twice or thrice left his labour, 
and walking some twenty miles through the forests, and 
over the hills, reached the summit of White Horse. From 
thence, resting on the sward, he watched the vessels making 
slow progress by oars, and some drawn with ropes by 
gangs of men or horses on the shore, through the narrow 
straits. North and South there nearly met. There was 
but a furlong of water between them. If ever the North 
came down there the armies would cross. There was the 
key of the world. Excepting the few cottages where the 
owners of the horses lived, there was neither castle nor 
town within twenty miles. 

Forced on by these thoughts, he broke the long silence 
which had existed between him and his father. He spoke 
of the value and importance of this spot ; could not the 
Baron send forth his retainers and enclose a new estate 
there ? There was nothing to prevent him. The forest 
was free to all, provided that they rendered due service to 
the Prince. Might not a house or castle built there 
become the beginning of a city ? The Baron listened, 
and then said he must go and see that a new hatch was 

7—2 



100 AFTER LONDON 

put in the brook to irrigate the water-meadow. That 
was all. 

Felix next wrote an anonymous letter to the Prince 
pointing out the value of the place. The Prince should 
seize it, and add to his power. He knew that the letter 
was delivered, but there was no sign. It had, indeed, been 
read and laughed at. Why make further efforts when 
they already had what they desired ? One only, the deep 
and designing Valentine, gave it serious thought in secret. 
It seemed to him that something might come of it, another 
day, when he was himself in power — if that should happen. 
But he, too, forgot it in a week. Some secret effort was 
made to discover the writer, for the council was very 
jealous of political opinion, but it soon ended. The idea, 
not being supported by money or influence, fell into 
oblivion. 

Felix worked on, chipping out the canoe. The days 
passed, and the boat was nearly finished. In a day or two 
now it would be launched, and soon afterwards he should 
commence his voyage. He should see Aurora once more 
only. He should see her, but he should not say farewell ; 
she would not know that he was going till he had actually 
departed. As he thought thus a dimness came before his 
eyes ; his hand trembled, and he could not work. He 
put down the chisel, and paused to steady himself. 

Upon the other side of the stream, somewhat lower 
down, a yellow wood-dog had been lapping the water to 
quench its thirst, watching the man the while. So long 
as Felix was intent upon his work, the wild animal had 



BARON AQUILA loi 

no fear ; the moment he looked up, the creature sprang 
back into the underwood. A dove was cooing in the 
forest not far distant, but as he was about to resume work 
the cooing ceased. Then a wood-pigeon rose from the 
ashes with a loud clapping of wings. Felix listened. 
His hunter instinct told him that something was moving 
there. A rustling of the bushes followed, and he took his 
spear, which had been leant against the adjacent tree. 
But, peering into the wood, in a moment he recognised 
Oliver, who, having walked ofiF his rage, was returning. 

" I thought it might have been a Bushman," said Felix, 
replacing his spear ; " only they are noiseless." 

" Any of them might have cut me down," said Oliver ; 
•*' for I forgot my weapon. It is nearly noon ; are you 
coming home to dinner ?" 

" Yes ; I must bring my tools." 

He put them in the basket, and together they returned 
to the rope ladder. As they passed the Pen by the river 
they caught sight of the Baron in the adjacent gardens, 
which were irrigated by his contrivances from the stream, 
and went towards him. A retainer held two horses, one 
gaily caparisoned, outside the garden ; his master was 
talking with Sir Constans. 

"It is Lord John," said Oliver. They approached 
slowly under the fruit-trees, not to intrude. Sir Constans 
'was showing the courtier an early cherry-tree, whose fruit 
-was already set. The dry, hot weather had caused it to set 
even earlier than usual. A suit of black velvet, an ex- 
tremely expensive and almost unprocurable material, 



102 AFTER LONDON 

brought the courtier's pale features into relief. It was 
only by the very oldest families that any velvet or satin or 
similar materials were still preserved ; if these were in 
pecuniary diflficulties they might sell some part of their 
store, but such things were not to be got for money in the 
ordinary way- 
Two small silver bars across his left shoulder showed 
that he was a lord-in-waiting. He was a handsome man, 
with clear-cut features, somewhat rakish from late hours 
and dissipation, but not the less interesting on that 
account. But his natural advantages were so over-run 
with the affectation of the Court that you did not see the 
man at all, being absorbed by the studied gesture to display 
the jewelled ring, and the peculiarly low tone of voice in 
which it was the fashion to speak. 

Beside the old warrior he looked a mere stripling. 
The Baron's arm was bare, his sleeve rolled up ; and as 
he pointed to the tree above, the muscles, as the limb 
moved, displayed themselves in knots, at which the 
courtier himself could not refrain from glancing. Those 
mighty arms, had they clasped him about the waist, could 
have crushed his bending ribs. The heaviest blow that 
he could have struck upon that broad chest would have 
produced no more effect than a hollow sound ; it would 
not even have shaken that powerful frame. 

He felt the steel blue eye, bright as the sky of mid- 
summer, glance into his very mind. The high forehead 
bare, for the Baron had his hat in his hand, mocked at him 
in its humility. The Baron bared his head in honour of 



BARON AQUILA 103 

the courtier's office and the Prince who had sent him. 
The beard, though streaked with white, spoke little of 
age ; it rather indicated an abundant, a luxuriant vitality. 

Lord John was not at ease. He shifted from foot to 
foot, and occasionally puffed a large cigar of Devon 
tobacco. His errand was simple enough. Some of the 
ladies at the Court had a fancy for fruit, especially straw- 
berries, but there were none in the market, nor to be 
obtained from the gardens about the town. It was recol- 
lected that Sir Constans was famous for his gardens, and 
the Prince despatched Lord John to Old House with a 
gracious message and a request for a basket of strawberries. 
Sir Constans was much pleased ; but he regretted that the 
hot, dry weather had not permitted the fruit to come to 
any size or perfection. Still there were some. 

The courtier accompanied him to the gardens, and saw 
the water-wheel which, turned by a horse, forced water 
from the stream into a small pond or elevated reservoir, 
from which it irrigated the ground. This supply of water 
had brought on the fruit, and Sir Constans was able to 
gather a small basket. He then looked round to see what 
other early product he could send to the palace. There 
was no other fruit; the cherries, though set, were not 
ripe ; but there was some asparagus, which had not yet 
been served, said Lord John, at the Prince's table. 

Sir Constans set men to hastily collect all that was 
ready, and while this was done took the courtier over the 
gardens. Lord John felt no interest whatever in such 
matters, but he could not choose but admire the extra- 



104 AFTER LONDON 

ordinary fertility of the enclosure, and the variety of the 
products. There was everything ; fruit of all kinds, herbs 
of every species, plots specially devoted to those pos- 
sessing medicinal virtue. This was only one part of the 
gardens ; the orchards proper were farther down, and the 
flowers nearer the house. Sir Constans had sent a man 
to the flower-garden, who now returned with two fine 
bouquets, which were presented to Lord John : the one 
for the Princess, the Prince's sister ; the other for any 
lady to whom he might choose to present it. 

The fruit had already been handed to the retainer who 
had charge of the horses. Though interested, in spite of 
himself. Lord John, acknowledging the flowers, turned to 
go with a sense of relief. This simplicity of manners 
seemed discordant to him. He felt out of place, and in 
some way lowered in his own esteem, and yet he despised 
the rural retirement and beauty about him. 

Felix and Oliver, a few yards distant, were waiting 
with rising tempers. The spectacle of the Baron in his 
native might of physique, humbly standing, hat in hand, 
before this Court messenger, discoursing on cherries, and 
offering flowers and fruit, filled them with anger and 
disgust. The affected gesture and subdued voice of 
the courtier, on the other hand, roused an equal con- 
tempt. 

As Lord John turned, he saw them. He did not quite 
guess their relationship, but supposed they were cadets of 
the house, it being customary for those in any way con- 
nected to serve the head of the family. He noted the 



BARON AQUILA 105 

flag basket in Felix's hand, and naturally imagined that 
he had been at work. 

" You have been to — to plough, eh r" he said, intend- 
ing to be very gracious and condescending. "Very 
healthy employment. The land requires some rain, does 
it not ? Still, I trust it will not rain till I am home, for 
my plume's sake," tossing his head. " Allow me," and 
as he passed he offered Oliver a couple of cigars. " One 
each," he added ; " the best Devon." 

Oliver took the cigars mechanically, holding them, as 
if they had been vipers, at arm's length, till the courtier 
had left the garden, and the hedge interposed. Then he 
threw them into the water-carrier. The best tobacco, 
indeed the only real tobacco, came from the warm Devon 
land, but little of it reached so far, on account of the 
distance, the difficulties of intercourse, the rare occasions 
on which the merchant succeeded in escaping the vexatious 
interference, the downright robbery of the way. Inter- 
course was often entirely closed by war. 

These cigars, therefore, were worth their weight in 
silver, and such tobacco could be obtained only by those 
about the Court, as a matter of favour, too, rather than 
by purchase. Lord John would, indeed, have stared 
aghast had he seen the rustic to whom he had given so 
valuable a present cast them into a ditch. He rode 
towards the Maple Gate, excusing iiis haste volubly to 
Sir Constans, who was on foot, and walked beside him a 
little way, pressing him to take some refreshment. 

His sons overtook the Baron on his way towards 



io6 AFTER LONDON 

home, and walked by his side in silence. Sir Constans 
was full of his fruit. 

" The wall cherry," said he, " will soon have a few 
ripe." 

Oliver swore a deep but soundless oath in his chest. 
Sir Constans continued talking about his fruit and 
flowers, entirely oblivious of the silent anger of the pair 
beside him. As they approached the house, the warder 
blew his horn thrice for noon. It was also the signal for 
dinner. 

CHAPTER VI. 

THE FOREST TRACK. 

When the canoe was finished, Oliver came to help Felix 
launch it, and they rolled it on logs down to the place 
where the stream formed a pool. But when it was afloat, 
as Oliver had foretold, it did not swim upright in the 
water. It had not been shaped accurately, and one side 
was higher out of the water than the other. 

Felix was so disgusted at this failure that he would not 
listen to anything Oliver could suggest. He walked back 
to the spot where he had worked so many weeks, and sat 
down with his face turned from the pool. It was not so 
much the actual circumstance which depressed him, as the 
long train of untoward incidents which had preceded it 
for years past. These seemed to have accumulated, till 
now this comparatively little annoyance was like the last 
straw. 



THE FOREST TRACK 107 

Oliver followed him, and said that the defect could be 
remedied by placing ballast on the more buoyant side of 
the canoe to bring it down to the level of the other ; or, 
perhaps, if some more wood were cut away on the heavier 
side, that would cause it to rise. He offered to do the 
work himself, but Felix, in his gloomy mood, would not 
answer him. Oliver returned to the pool, and getting 
into the canoe, poled it up and down the stream. It 
answered perfectly, and could be easily managed ; the 
defect was more apparent than real, for when a person 
sat in the canoe, his weight seemed to bring it nearly level. 

It was only when empty that it canted to one side. 
He came back again to Felix, and pointed this out to him. 
The attempt was useless; the boat might answer the 
purpose perfectly well, but it was not the boat Felix had 
intended it to be. It did not come up to his ideal. 

Oliver was now somewhat annoyed at Felix's sullen 
silence, so he drew the canoe partly on shore, to prevent 
it from floating away, and then left him to himself. 

Nothing more was said about it for a day or two. 
Felix did not go near the spot where he had worked so 
hard and so long, but on the Saturday Philip came home 
as usual, and, as there was now no secret about the 
canoe, went down to look at it with Oliver. They 
pushed it off, and floated two or three miles down the 
stream,, hauling it on the shore past the fallen fir-tree, and 
then, with a cord, towed it back again. The canoe, with 
the exception of the trifling deficiency alluded to, was a 
good one, and thoroughly serviceable. 



io8 AFTER LONDON 

They endeavoured again to restore Felix's opinion of it, 
and an idea occurring to Philip, he said a capital plan 
would be to add an outrigger, and so balance it perfectly. 
But though usually quick to adopt ideas when they were 
good, in this case Felix was too much out of conceit with 
himself. He would listen to nothing. Still, he could not 
banish it from his mind, though now ashamed to return 
to it after so obstinately refusing all suggestions. He 
wandered aimlessly about in the woods, till one day he 
found himself in the path that led to Heron Bay. 

Strolling to the shore of the great Lake, he sat down 
and watched a vessel sailing afar off slowly before the west 
wind. The thought presently occurred to him, that the 
addition of an outrigger in the manner Philip had men- 
tioned would enable him to carry a sail. The canoe 
could not otherwise support a sail (unless a very small one 
merely for going before the breeze), but with such a sail 
as the outrigger would bear, he could venture much 
farther away from land, his voyage might be much more 
extended, and his labour with the paddle lessened. 

This filled him with fresh energy ; he returned, and at 
once recommenced work. Oliver, finding that he was 
again busy at it, came and insisted upon helping. 
With his aid, the work progressed rapidly. He used the 
tools so deftly as to accomplish more in an hour than 
Felix could in a day. The outrigger consisted of a beam 
of poplar, sharpened at both ends, and held at some six or 
seven feet from the canoe by two strong cross-pieces. 

A mast, about the same height as the canoe was long, 



THE FOREST TRACK 109 

was then set up ; it was made from a young fir-tree. 
Another smaller fir supplied the yard, which extended fore 
and aft, nearly the length of the boat. The sail, of coarse 
canvas, was not very high, but long, and rather broader at 
each end, where the rope attached it to the prow and stern, 
or, rather, the two prows. Thus arranged, it was not so 
well suited for running straight before the wind, as for 
working into it, a feat never attempted by the ships of the 
time. 

Oliver was delighted with the appearance of the boat, 
so much so that now and then he announced his intention 
of accompanying Felix on his voyage. But after a visit to 
the town, and a glance at the Princess Lucia, his resolution 
changed. Yet he wavered, one time openly reproaching 
himself for enduring such a life of inaction and ignominy, 
and at another deriding Felix and his visionary schemes. 
The canoe was now completed ; it was tried on the pool 
and found to float exactly as it should. It had now to be 
conveyed to Heron Bay. 

The original intention was to put it on a cart, but the 
rude carts used on the estate could not very well carry it, 
and a sledge was substituted. Several times, during the 
journey through the forest, the sledge had to be halted 
while the underwood was cut away to permit of its pass- 
ing ; and once a slough had to be filled up with branches 
hewn from fir-trees, and bundles of fern. These delays 
made it evening before the shore of the creek was reached. 

It was but a little inlet, scarce a bowshot wide at the 
entrance, and coming to a point inland. Here the canoe 



no AFTER LONDON 

was left in charge of three serfs, who were ordered to 
build a hut and stay beside it. Some provisions were 
sent next day on the backs of other serfs, and in the 
afternoon (it was Saturday) all three brothers arrived ; the 
canoe was launched, and they started for a trial sail. 
With a south wind they ran to the eastward at a rapid 
pace, keeping close to the shore till within a mile of 
White Horse. 

There they brought to by steering the canoe dead 
against the wind ; then transferring the steering-paddle (a 
rather larger one, made for the purpose) to the other end, 
and readjusting the sail, the outrigger being still to lee- 
ward, they ran back at an equal speed. The canoe 
answered perfectly, and Felix was satisfied. He now 
despatched his tools and various weapons to the hut to be 
put on board. His own peculiar yew bow he kept to the 
last at home ; it and his chest bound with hide would go 
with him on the last day. 

Although, in his original scheme, Felix had designed to 
go forth without anyone being aware of his intention, 
the circumstances which had arisen, and the necessary 
employment of so many men, had let out the secret to 
some degree. The removal of the tools and weapons, 
the crossbow, darts, and spear, still more attracted atten- 
tion. But little or nothing was said about it, though the 
Baron and Baroness could not help but observe these 
preparations. The Baron deliberately shut his eyes and 
went about his gardening ; he was now, too, busy with 
the first mowing. In his heart, perhaps, he felt that he 



THE FOREST TRACK iii 

had not done altogether right in so entirely retiring from 
the world. 

By doing so he had condemned his children to loneli- 
ness, and to be regarded with contempt. Too late now, 
he could only obstinately persist in his course. The 
Baroness, inured for so many, many years to disappoint- 
ment, had contracted her view of life till it scarcely 
extended beyond mere physical comfort. Nor could she 
realise the idea of Felix's approaching departure; when 
he was actually gone, it would, perhaps, come home 
to her. 

All was now ready, and Felix was only waiting for the 
Feast of St. James to pay a last visit to Aurora at Thyma 
Castle. The morning before the day of the Feast, Felix 
and Oliver set out together. They had not lived alto- 
gether in harmony, but now, at this approaching change, 
Oliver felt that he must bear Felix company. Oliver 
rode his beautiful Night, he wore his plumed hat and 
precious sword, and carried his horseman's lance. Felix 
rode a smaller horse, useful, but far from handsome. He 
carried his yew bow and hunting knife. 

Thyma Castle was situated fifteen miles to the south ; 
it was the last outpost of civilization ; beyond it there 
was nothing but forest, and the wild open plains, the 
home of the gipsies. This circumstance of position had 
given Baron Thyma, in times past, a certain importance, 
more than was due to the size of his estate or the number 
of his retainers. During an invasion of the gipsies, his 
castle bore the brunt of the war, and its gallant defencej 



112 AFTER LONDON 

indeed, broke their onward progress. So many fell in 
endeavouring to take it, that the rest were disheartened, 
and only scattered bands penetrated beyond. 

For this service the Baron received the grant of various 
privileges ; he was looked on as a pillar of the State, and 
was welcome at the court. But it proved an injury to 
him in the end. His honours, and the high society they 
led him into, were too great for the comparative smallness 
of his income. Rich in flocks and herds, he had but little 
coin. High-spirited, and rather fond of display, he could 
not hold back ; he launched forth, with the usual result 
of impoverishment, mortgage, and debt. 

He had hoped to obtain the command of an army in 
the wars that broke out from time to time ; it was, indeed, 
universally admitted that he was in every respect qualified 
for such a post. The courtiers and others, however, 
jealous, as is ever the case, of ability and real talent, 
debarred him by their intrigues from attaining his object. 
Pride prevented him from acquiescing in this defeat ; he 
strove by display and extravagance to keep himself well to 
the front, flaunting himself before the eyes of all. This 
course could not last long ; he was obliged to retire 
to his estate, which narrowly escaped forfeiture to his 
creditors. 

So ignominious an end after such worthy service was, 
however, prevented by the personal interference of the old 
Prince, who, from his private resources, paid off the most 
pressing creditors. To the last, the old Prince received 
him as a friend, and listened to his counsel. Thyma was 



THE FOREST TRACK 113 

ever in hopes that some change in the balance of parties 
would give him his opportunity. When the young 
Prince succeeded, he was clever enough to see that the 
presence of such men about his Court gave it a stability, 
and he, too, invited Thyma to tender his advice. The 
Baron's hopes now rose higher than ever, but again he was 
disappointed. 

The new Prince, himself incapable, disliked and dis- 
trusted talent. The years passed, and the Baron obtained 
no appointment. Still he strained his resources to the 
utmost to visit the Court as often as possible; still he 
believed that sooner or later a turn of the wheel would 
elevate him. 

There had existed between the houses of Thyma and 
Aquila the bond of hearth-friendship ; the gauntlets, hoofs, 
and rings were preserved by both, and the usual presents 
passed thrice a year ; at midsummer, Christmas, and Lady- 
day. Not much personal intercourse had taken place, 
however, for some years, until Felix was attracted by the 
beauty of the Lady Aurora. Proud, showy, and pushing, 
Thyma could not understand the feelings which led his 
hearth-friend to retire from the arena and busy himself 
with cherries and water-wheels. On the other hand, 
Constans rather looked with quiet derision on the ostenta- 
tion of the other. Thus there was a certain distance, as 
it were, between them. 

Baron Thyma could not, of course, be ignorant of the 
attachment between his daughter and Felix ; yet as much 
as possible he ignored it. He never referred to Felix j if 

8 



114 AFTER LONDON 

his name was incidentally mentioned, he remained silent. 
The truth was, he looked higher for Lady Aurora. 
He could not in courtesy discourage even in the 
faintest manner the visits of his friend's son ; the 
knightly laws of honour would have forbidden so mean 
a course. Nor would his conscience permit him to 
do so, remembering the old days when he and the Baron 
were glad companions together, and how the Baron 
Aquila was the first to lead troops to his assistance in 
the gipsy war. Still, he tacitly disapproved ; he did not 
encourage. 

Felix felt that he was not altogether welcome ; he 
recognised the sense of restraint that prevailed when he 
was present. It deeply hurt his pride, and nothing but 
his love for Aurora could have enabled him to bear up 
against it. The galling part of it was that he could not 
in his secret heart condemn the father for evidently 
desiring a better alliance for his child. This was the 
strongest of the motives that had determined him to seek 
the unknown. 

If anything, the Baron would have preferred Oliver as 
a suitor for his daughter; he sympathised with Oliver's 
fiery spirit, and admired his feats of strength and dexterity 
with sword and spear. He always welcomed Oliver 
heartily, and paid him every attention. This, to do 
Oliver justice, was one reason why he determined to 
accompany his brother, thinking that if he was there he 
could occupy attention, and thus enable Felix to have 
more opportunity to speak with Aurora. 



THE FOREST TRACK 115 

The two rode forth from the courtyard early in the 
morning, and passing through the whole length of the 
enclosure within the stockade, issued at the South Barrier 
and almost immediately entered the forest. They rather 
checked their horses' haste, fresh as the animals were from 
the stable, but could not quite control their spirits, for the 
walk of a horse is even half as fast again while he is full 
of vigour. The turn of the track soon shut out the 
stockade ; they were alone in the woods. 

Long since, early as they were, the sun had dried the 
dew, for his beams warm the atmosphere quickly as the 
spring advances towards summer. But it was still fresh 
and sweet among the trees, and even Felix, though bound 
on so gloomy an errand, could not choose but feel the 
joyous influence of the morning. Oliver sang aloud in 
his rich deep voice, and the thud, thud of the horses' hoofs 
kept time to the ballad. 

The thrushes flew but a little way back from the path 
as they passed, and began to sing again directly they were 
by. The whistling of blackbirds came from afar where 
there were open glades or a running stream ; the notes of 
the cuckoo became fainter and fainter as they advanced 
farther from the stockade, for the cuckoo likes the wood- 
lands that immediately border on cultivation. For some 
miles the track was broad, passing through thickets of 
thorn and low hawthorn-trees with immense masses of 
tangled underwood between, brambles and woodbine 
twisted and matted together, impervious above but hollow 
beneath ; under these they could hear the bush - hens 

8—2 



ii6 AFTER LONDON 

running to and fro and scratching at the dead leaves 
which strewed the ground. Sounds of clucking deeper in 
betrayed the situation of their nests. 

Rushes, and the dead sedges of last year, up through 
which the green fresh leaves were thrusting themselves, 
in some places stood beside the way, fringing the thorns 
where the hollow ground often held the water from rain- 
storms. Out from these bushes a rabbit occasionally 
started and bounded across to the other side. Here, where 
there were so few trees, and the forest chiefly consisted of 
bush, they could see some distance on either hand, and 
also a wide breadth of the sky.- After a time the thorn 
bushes were succeeded by ash wood, where the trees stood 
closer to the path, contracting the view ; it was moister 
here, the hoofs cut into the grass, which was coarse and 
rank. The trees growing so close together destroyed 
themselves, their lower branches rubbed together and were 
killed, so that in many spots the riders could see a long 
way between the trunks. 

Every time the wind blew they could hear a distant 
cracking of branches as the dead boughs, broken by the 
swaying of the trees, fell off and came down. Had any- 
one attempted to walk into the forest there they would 
have sunk above the ankle in soft decaying wood, hidden 
from sight by thick vegetation. Wood-pigeons rose every 
minute from these ash-trees with a loud clatter of wings ; 
their calls resounded continually, now deep in the forest, 
and now close at hand. It was evident that a large flock 
of them had their nesting-place here, and indeed their 



THE FOREST TRACK 117 

nests of twigs could be frequently seen from the path. 
There seemed no other birds. 

Again the forest changed, and the track, passing on 
higher ground, entered among firs. These, too, had 
killed each other by growing so thickly ; the lower 
branches of many were dead, and there was nothing but 
a little green at the tops, while in many places there 
was an open space where they had decayed away altogether. 
Brambles covered the ground in these open places, brambles 
and fiirze now bright with golden blossom. The jays 
screeched loudly, startled as the riders passed under them, 
and fluttered away ; rabbits, which they saw again here, 
dived into their burrows. Between the firs the track was 
very narrow, and they could not conveniently ride side by 
side ; Oliver took the lead, and Felix followed. 



CHAPTER VII. 
THE FOREST TRACK (CONTINUED). 

Once as they trotted by a pheasant rose screaming from 
the furze and flew before them down the track. Just 
afterwards Felix, who had been previously looking very 
carefully into the firs upon his right hand, suddenly 
stopped, and Oliver, finding this, pulled up as quickly as 
he could, thinking that Felix wished to tighten his girth. 

" What is it ?" he asked, turning round in his saddle. 

" Hush !" said Felix, dismounting ; his horse, trained 
to hunting, stood perfectly still, and would have remained 



ii8 AFTER LONDON 

within a few yards of the spot by the hour together. 
Oliver reined back, seeing Felix about to bend and string 
his bow. 

" Bushmen," whispered Felix, as he, having fitted the 
loop to the horn notch, drew forth an arrow from his 
girdle, where he carried two or three more ready to hand 
than in the quiver on his shoulder. " I thought I saw 
signs of them some time since, and now I am nearly sure. 
Stay here a moment." 

He stepped aside from the track in among the firs, 
which just there were far apart, and went to a willow 
bush standing by some furze. He had noticed that one 
small branch on the outer part of the bush was snapped 
oflF, though green, and only hung by the bark. The 
wood cattle, had they browsed upon it, would have 
nibbled the tenderest leaves at the end of the bough ; nor 
did they usually touch willow, for the shoots are bitter 
and astringent. Nor would the deer touch it in the 
spring, when they had so wide a choice of food. 

Nothing could have broken the branch in that manner 
unless it was the hand of a man, or a blow with a heavy 
stick wielded by a human hand. On coming to the bush 
he saw that the fracture was very recent, for the bough 
was perfectly green ; it had not turned brown, and the 
bark was still soft with sap. It had not been cut with a 
knife or any sharp instrument; it had been broken by 
rude violence, and not divided. The next thing to catch 
his eye was the appearance of a larger branch farther 
inside the bush. 



THE FOREST TRACK 119 

This was not broken, but a part of the bark was 
abraded, and even torn up from the wood as if by the 
impact of some hard substance, as a stone, thrown with 
great force. He examined the ground, but there was no 
stone visible, and on again looking at the bark he con- 
cluded that it had not been done with a stone at all, 
because the abraded portion was not cut. The blow had 
been delivered by something without edges or projections. 
He had now no longer any doubt that the lesser branch 
outside had been broken, and the large inside branch 
bruised, by the passage of a Bushman's throw-club. 

These, their only missile weapons, are usually made of 
crab-tree, and consist of a very thin short handle, with a 
large, heavy, and smooth knob. With these they can 
bring down small game, as rabbits or hares, or a fawn 
(even breaking the legs of deer), or the large birds, as the 
wood-turkeys. Stealing up noiselessly within ten yards, 
the Bushman throws his club with great force, and rarely 
misses his aim. If not killed at once, the game is certain 
to be stunned, and is much more easily secured than if 
wounded with an arrow, for with an arrow in its wing a 
large bird will flutter along the ground, and perhaps creep 
into sedges or under impenetrable bushes. 

Deprived of motion by the blow of the club, it can, on 
the other hand, be picked up without trouble and without 
the aid of a dog, and if not dead is despatched by a twist 
of the Bushman's fingers or a thrust from his spud. The 
spud is at once his dagger, his knife and fork, his chisel, 
his grub-axe, and his gouge. It is a piece of iron (rarely^ 



I20 AFTER LONDON 

or never of steel, for he does not know how to harden it) 
about ten inches long, an inch and a half wide at the top 
or broadest end, where it is shaped and sharpened like a 
chisel, only with the edge not straight but sloping, and 
from thence tapering to a point at the other, the pointed 
part being four-sided, like a nail. 

It has, indeed, been supposed that the original spud was 
formed from a large wrought-iron nail, such as the ancients 
used, sharpened on a stone at one end, and beaten out flat 
at the other. This instrument has a handle in the middle, 
half-way between the chisel end and the point. The 
handle is of horn or bone (the spud being put through the 
hollow of the bone), smoothed to fit the hand. With the 
chisel end he cuts up his game and his food ; the edge, 
being sloping, is drawn across the meat and divides it. 
With this end, too, he fashions his club and his traps, 
and digs up the roots he uses. The other end he runs 
into his meat as a fork, or thrusts it into the neck of his 
game to kill it and let out the blood, or with it stabs a 
sleeping enemy. 

The stab delivered by the Bushman can always be dis- 
tinguished, because the wound is invariably square, and 
thus a clue only too certain has often been afforded to the 
assassin of many an unfortunate hunter. Whatever the 
Bushman in this case had hurled his club at, the club had 
gone into the willow bush, snapping the light branch and 
leaving its mark upon the bark of the larger. A moment's 
reflection convinced Felix that the Bushman had been in 
chase of a pheasant. Only a few moments previously a 



THE FOREST TRACK 121 

pheasant had flown before them down the track, and 
where there was one pheasant there were generally several 
more in the immediate neighbourhood. 

The Bushmen were known to be peculiarly fond of the 
pheasants, pursuing them all the year round without 
reference to the breeding season, and so continuously, that 
it was believed they caused these birds to be much less 
numerous, notwithstanding the vast extent of the forests, 
than they would otherwise have been. From the fresh 
appearance of the snapped bough, the Bushman must 
have passed but a few hours previously, probably at the 
dawn, and was very likely concealed at that moment 
near at hand in the forest, perhaps within a hundred 
yards. 

Felix looked carefully round, but could see nothing ; 
there were the trees, not one of them large enough to 
hide a man behind it, the furze bushes were small and 
scattered, and there was not sufficient fern to conceal any- 
thing. The keenest glance could discern nothing more. 
There were no footmarks on the ground; indeed, the dry, 
dead leaves and fir needles could hardly have received 
any impression, and up in the firs the branches were thin, 
and the sky could be seen through them. Whether the 
Bushman was lying in some slight depression of the 
ground, or whether he had covered himself with dead 
leaves and fir needles, or whether he had gone on and was 
miles away, there was nothing to show. But of the fact 
that he had been there Felix was perfectly certain. 

He returned towards Oliver, thoughtful and not 



122 AFTER LONDON 

without some anxiety, for he did not like the idea (though 
there was really little or no danger) of these human wild 
beasts being so near Aurora, while he should so soon 
be far away. Thus occupied, he did not heed his steps, 
and suddenly felt something soft under his feet, which 
struggled. Instantaneously he sprang as far as he could, 
shuddering, for he had crushed an adder, and but just 
escaped, by his involuntary and mechanical leap, from its 
venom. 

In the warm sunshine the viper, in its gravid state, had 
not cared to move as usual on hearing his approach j he 
had stepped full upon it. He hastened from the spot, and 
rejoined Oliver in a somewhat shaken state of mind. 
Common as such an incident was in the woods, where 
sandy soil warned the hunter to be careful, it seemed 
ominous that particular morning, and, joined with the 
discovery of Bushman traces, quite destroyed his sense of 
the beauty of the day. 

On hearing the condition of the willow boughs Oliver 
agreed as to the cause, and said that they must remember 
to warn the Baron's shepherds that the Bushmen, who had 
not been seen for some time, were about. Soon afterwards 
they emerged from the sombre firs and crossed a wide and 
sloping ground, almost bare of trees, where a forest fire 
last year had swept away the underwood. A verdant 
growth of grass was now springing up. Here they could 
canter side by side. The sunshine poured down, and 
birds were singing joyously. But they soon passed it, and 
checked their speed on entering the trees again. 



THE FOREST TRACK 123 

Tall beeches, with round smooth trunks, stood thick 
and close upon the dry and rising ground ; their boughs 
met overhead, forming a green continuous arch for miles. 
The space between was filled with brake fern, now fast 
growing up, and the track itself was green with moss. As 
they came into this beautiful place a red stag, startled 
from his browsing, bounded down the track, his swift 
leaps carrying him away like the wind ; in another moment 
he left the path and sprang among the fern, and was seen 
only in glimpses as he passed between the beeches. Squirrels 
ran up the trunks as they approached j they could see 
many on the ground in among the trees, and passed 
under others on the branches high above them. Wood- 
peckers flashed across the avenue. 

Once Oliver pointed out the long, lean flank of a grey 
pig, or fern-hog, as the animal rushed away among the 
brake. There were several glades, from one of which 
they startled a few deer, whose tails only were seen as 
they bounded into the underwood, but after the glades 
■came the beeches again. Beeches always form the most 
beautiful forest, beeches and oak ; and though nearing the 
•end of their journey, they regretted when they emerged 
from these trees and saw the castle before them. 

The ground suddenly sloped down into a valley, beyond 
which rose the Downs ; the castle stood on a green, 
isolated low hill, about half-way across the vale. To the 
left a river wound past ; to the right the beech forest 
•extended as far as the eye could see. The slope at their 
feet had been cleared of all but a few hawthorn bushes. 



124 AFTER LONDON 

It was not enclosed, but a neatherd was there with his 
cattle half a mile away, sitting himself at the foot of a 
beech, while the cattle grazed below him. 

Down in the valley the stockade began ; it was not 
wide, but long. The enclosure extended on the left to 
the bank of the river, and two fields on the other side of 
it. On the right it reached a mile and a half or nearly, 
the whole of which was overlooked from the spot where 
they had passed. Within the enclosure the corn crops 
were green and flourishing ; horses and cattle, ricks and 
various buildings, were scattered about it. The town or 
cottages of the serfs were on the bank of the river im- 
mediately beyond the castle. On the Downs, which rose 
a mile or more on the other side of the castle, sheep were 
feeding ; part of the ridge was wooded and part open. 
Thus the cultivated and enclosed valley was everywhere 
shut in with woods and hills. 

The isolated round hill on which the castle stood was 
itself enclosed with a second stockade ; the edge of the 
brow above that again was defended by a stout high wall 
of flints and mortar, crenellated at the top. There were 
no towers or bastions. An old and ivy-grown building 
stood inside the wall ; it dated from the time of the 
ancients ; it had several gables, and was roofed with tiles. 
This was the dwelling-house. The gardens were situated 
on the slope between the wall and the inner stockade. 
Peaceful as the scene appeared, it had been the site of 
furious fighting not many years ago. The Downs trended 
to the south, where the Romany and the Zingari resided, 



THE FOREST TRACK 125 

and a keen watch was kept both from the wall and from 
the hills beyond. 

They now rode slowly down the slope, and in a few 
minutes reached the barrier or gateway in the outer 
stockade. They had been observed, and the guard called 
by the warden, but as they approached were recognised, 
and the gate swung open before them. Walking their 
horses, they crossed to the hill, and were as easily admitted 
to the second enclosure. At the gate of the wall they 
dismounted, and waited while the warden carried the 
intelligence of their arrival to the family. A moment 
later, and the Baron's son advanced from the porch, and 
from the open window the Baroness and Aurora beckoned 
to them, 

CHAPTER VIII. 

THYMA CASTLE. 

Soon afterwards the hollow sound of the warden's horn, 
from the watch over the gate of the wall, proclaimed the 
hour of noon, and they all assembled for dinner in the 
banqueting chamber. This apartment was on the ground 
floor, and separated from the larger hall only by an internal 
wall. The house, erected in the time of the ancients, was 
not designed for our present style of life ; it possessed, 
indeed, many comforts and conveniences which are scarcely 
now to be found in the finest palaces, but it lacked the 
breadth of construction which our architects have now in 
view. 



126 AFTER LONDON 

In the front there were originally only two rooms, 
extensive for those old days, but not sufficiently so for 
ours. One of these had therefore been enlarged, by 
throwing into it a back room and part of the entrance, 
and even then it was not long enough for the Baron's 
retainers, and at feast-time a wooden shed was built 
opposite, and up to the window, to continue, as it were, the 
apartment out of doors. Workmen were busy putting up 
this shed when they arrived. 

The second apartment retained its ancient form, and 
was used as the dining-room on ordinary days. It was 
lighted by a large window, now thrown wide open that 
the sweet spring air might enter, which window was the 
pride of the Baroness, for it contained more true glass 
than any window in the palace of the Prince. The glass 
made now is not transparent, but merely translucent ; it 
indeed admits light after a fashion, but it is thick and 
cannot be seen through. These panes were almost all 
(the central casement wholly) of ancient glass, preserved 
with the greatest care through the long years past. 

Three tables were arranged in an open square ; the 
Baron and Baroness's chairs of oak faced the window, the 
guests sat at the other tables sideways to them, the 
servants moved on the outer side, and thus placed the 
food before them without pushing against or incommoding 
them. A fourth table was placed in a corner between 
the fireplace and the window. At it sat the old nurse, 
the housekeeper (frequently arising to order the servants), 
and the Baron's henchman, who had taught him to ride, 



THYMA CASTLE 127 

but now, grey and aged, could not mount himself without 
assistance, and had long ceased from active service. 

Already eight or nine guests had arrived besides Felix 
and Oliver. Some had ridden a great distance to be 
at the House Day. They were all nobles, richly dressed ; 
one or two of the eldest were wealthy and powerful men, 
and the youngest was the son and heir of the Earl of 
Essiton, who was then the favourite at Court. Each had 
come with his personal attendants ; the young Lord 
Durand brought with him twenty-five retainers, and six 
gentlemen friends, all of whom were lodged in the town, 
the gentlemen taking their meals at the castle at the same 
time as the Baron, but, owing to lack of room, in another 
apartment by themselves. Durand was placed, or rather, 
quietly helped himself to a seat, next the Lady Aurora, 
and of all the men there present, certainly there was none 
more gallant and noble than he. 

His dark eyes, his curling hair, short, but brought in a 
thick curl over his forehead, his lips well shaped, his chin 
round and somewhat prominent, the slight moustache (no 
other hair on the face), formed the very ideal of what 
many women look for in a man. But it was his bright, 
lively conversation, the way in which his slightly swarthy 
complexion flushed with animation, the impudent assurance 
and yet generous warmth of his manner, and, indeed, of 
his feelings, which had given him the merited reputation 
of being the very flower of the nobles. 

With such a reputation, backed with the great wealth 
and power of his father, gentlemen competed with each 



128 AFTER LONDON 

other to swell his train ; he could not, indeed, entertain 
all that came, and was often besieged with almost as large 
a crowd as the Prince himself. He took as his right the 
chair next Aurora, to whom, indeed, he had been paying 
unremitting attention all the morning. She was laughing 
heartily, as she sat down, at some sally of his upon a beauty 
at the Court. 

The elder men were placed highest up the tables, and 
nearest the host, but to the astonishment of all, and not 
the least of himself, Oliver was invited by the Baron to 
sit by his side. Oliver could not understand this special 
mark of favour; the others, though far too proud for a 
moment to resent what they might have deemed a slight 
upon them, at once began to search their minds for a 
reason. They knew the Baron as an old intriguer ; they 
attached a meaning, whether intended or not, to his 
smallest action, 

Felix, crowded out, as it were, and unnoticed, was 
forced to take his seat at the end of the table nearest that 
set apart in the corner for the aged and honoured servitors 
of the family. Only a few feet intervened between him 
and the ancient henchman ; and he could not but overhear 
their talk among themselves, whispered as it was. He had 
merely shaken hands with Aurora; the crowd in the 
■drawing-room and the marked attentions of Durand had 
prevented the exchange of a single word between them. 
As usual, the sense of neglect and injury over which he 
had so long brooded with little or no real cause (consider- 
ing, of course, his position, and that the world can only 



THYMA CASTLE 129 

see our coats and not our hearts), under these entirely- 
accidental circumstances rose up again within him, and 
blinded him to the actual state of things. 

His seat, the lowest, and the nearest to the servitors, 
was in itself a mark of the low estimation in which he 
was held. The Lord Durand had been placed next to 
Aurora, as a direct hint to himself not to presume. Doubt- 
less, Durand had been at the castle many times, not 
improbably had already been accepted by the Baron, and 
not altogether refused by Aurora. As a fact, though de- 
lighted with her beauty and conversation, Durand's pre- 
sence was entirely due to the will of his father, the Earl, 
who wished to maintain friendly relations with Baron 
Thyma, and even then he would not have come had not 
the lovely weather invited him to ride into the forest. 

It was, however, so far true, that though his presence 
was accidental, yet he was fast becoming fascinated by 
one who, girl though she was, was stronger in mind than 
he. Now Aurora, knowing that her father's eye was on 
her, dared not look towards Felix, lest by an open and 
pronounced conduct she should be the cause of his being 
informed that his presence was not desirable. She knew 
that the Baron only needed a pretext to interfere, and was 
anxious to avoid affording him a chance. 

Felix, seeing her glance bent downwards or towards 
her companion, and never all the time turned to him, not 
unnaturally, but too hastily, concluded that she had been 
dazzled by Durand and the possibility of an alliance with 
his powerful family. He was discarded, worthless, and of 

9 



130 AFTER LONDON 

no account i he had nothing but his sword; nay, he had 
not a sword, he was only an archer, a footman. Angry, 
jealous, and burning with inward annoyance, despising 
himself, since all others despised him, scarce able to remain 
at the table, Felix was almost beside himself, and did not 
answer nor heed the remarks of the gentlemen sitting by 
him, who put him down as an ill-bred churl. 

For the form's sake, indeed, he put his lips to the 
double-handled cup of fine ale, which continually circulated 
round the table, and was never allowed to be put down ; 
one servant had nothing else to do but to see that its 
progress never stopped. But he drank nothing, and ate 
nothing; he could not swallow. How visionary, how 
weak and feeble now seemed the wild scheme of the canoe 
and the proposed voyage ! Even should it succeed, years 
must elapse before he could accomplish anything sub- 
stantial ; while here were men who really had what he 
could only think of or imagine. 

The silver chain or sword-belt of Durand (the sword 
and the dagger were not worn at the banquet, nor in the 
house ; they were received by the marshal, and deposited 
in his care, a precaution against quarrelling), solid silver 
links passing over his shoulder, were real actual things. 
All the magnificence that he could call up by the exercise 
of his imagination, was but imagination ; a dream no more 
to be seen by others than the air itself. 

The dinner went on, and the talk became more noisy. 
The trout, the chicken, the thyme lamb (trapped on the 
hills by the shepherds), the plover eggs, the sirloin, the 



THYMA CASTLE 131 

pastry (the Baroness superintended the making of it 
herself), all the profusion of the table, rather set him 
against food than tempted him. Nor could he drink the 
tiny drop, as it were, of ancient brandy, sent round to each 
guest at the conclusion, precious as liquid gold, for it had 
been handed down from the ancients, and when once the 
cask was empty it could not be re-filled. 

The dessert, the strawberries, the nuts and walnuts, 
carefully preserved with a little salt, and shaken in the 
basket from time to time that they might not become 
mouldy, the apples, the honey in the comb with slices of 
white bread, nothing pleased him. Nor did he drink, 
otherwise than the sip demanded by courtesy, of the thin 
wine of Gloucester, costly as it was, grown in the vine- 
yard there, and shipped across the Lake, and rendered still 
more expensive by risk of pirates. This was poured into 
flagons of maple wood, which, like the earthenware cup 
of ale, were never allowed to touch the board till the 
dinner was over. 

Wearily the time went on ; Felix glanced more and 
more often at the sky, seen through the casement, eagerly 
desiring to escape, and at least to be alone. At last (how 
long it seemed !) the Baron rose, and immediately the rest 
did the same, and they drank the health of the Prince. 
Then a servitor brought in a pile of cigars upon a carved 
wooden tray, like a large platter, but with a rim. "These," 
said the Baron, again rising (the signal to all to cease con- 
versing and to listen), " are a present from my gracious 
and noble friend the Earl of Essiton " (he looked towards 

9—2 



132 AFTER LONDON 

Durand), " not less kindly carried by Lord Durand. I 
could have provided only our ow^n coarse tobacco; but 
these are the best Devon." 

The ladies now left the table, Aurora escorted by- 
Durand, the Baroness by Oliver. Oliver, indeed, was in 
the highest spirits ; he had eaten heartily of all, especially 
the sweet thyme lamb, and drunk as freely. He was in 
his element, his laugh the loudest, his talk the liveliest. 
Directly Durand returned (he had gone even a part of the 
way upstairs towards the drawing-room with Aurora, a 
thing a little against etiquette) he took his chair, formality 
being now at an end, and placed it by Oliver. They 
seemed to become friends at once by sympathy of mind 
and taste. 

Round them the rest gradually grouped themselves, so 
that presently Felix, who did not move, found himself 
sitting alone at the extreme end of the table ; quite apart, 
for the old retainers, who dined at the separate table, had 
quitted the apartment when the wine was brought in. 
Freed from the restraint of the ladies, the talk now became 
extremely noisy, the blue smoke from the long cigars filled 
the great apartment ; one only remained untouched, that 
placed before Felix. Suddenly it struck him that thus 
sitting alone and apart, he should attract attention ; he, 
therefore, drew his chair to the verge of the group, but 
remained silent, and as far off as ever. Presently the 
arrival of five more guests caused a stir and confusion, in 
the midst of which he escaped into the open air. 

He wandered towards the gate of the wall, passing the 



THYMA CASTLE 133 

wooden shed where the clink of hammers resounded, 
glanced at the sundial, which showed the hour of three 
(three weary hours had they feasted), and went out into 
the gardens. Still going on, he descended the slope, and 
not much heeding whither he was going, took the road 
that led into the town. It consisted of some hundred or 
more houses, built of wood and thatched, placed without 
plan or arrangement on the bank of the stream. Only 
one long street ran through it, the rest were mere byways. 

All these were inhabited by the Baron's retainers, but 
the number and apparently small extent of the houses did 
not afford correct data for the actual amount of the popu- 
lation. In these days the people (as is well known) find 
much difficulty in marrying ; it seems only possible for a 
certain proportion to marry, and hence there are always a 
great number of young or single men out of all ratio to 
the houses. At the sound of the bugle the Baron could 
reckon on at least three hundred men flocking without a 
minute's delay to man the wall ; in an hour more would 
arrive from the outer places, and by nightfall, if the 
summons went forth in the morning, his shepherds and 
swineherds would arrive, and these together would add 
some hundred and fifty to the garrison. 

Next must be reckoned the armed servants of the 
house, the Baron's personal attendants, the gentlemen 
who formed his train, his sons, and the male relations of 
the family ; these certainly were not less than fifty. 
Altogether over five hundred men, well armed and 
accustomed to the use of their w^eapons, would range 



134 AFTER LONDON 

, themselves beneath his banner. Two of the buildings in 
the town were of brick (the material carried hither, for 
there was no clay or stone thereabouts) ; they were not 
far apart. The one was the Toll House, where all 
merchants or traders paid the charges in corn or kind due 
to the Baron ; the other was the Court House, where he 
sat to administer justice and decide causes, or to send the 
criminal to the gibbet. 

These alone of the buildings were of any age, for the 
.wooden Jiouses were extremely subject to destruction by 
fire, and twice in the Baron's time half the town had been 
laid in ashes, only to rise again in a few weeks. Timber 
was so abundant and so ready of access, it seemed a loss ot 
labour to fetch stone or brick, or to use the flints of the 
hills. About the doors of the two inns there were 
gathered groups of people ; among them the liveries of the 
nobles visiting the castle were conspicuous ; the place was 
full of them, the stables were filled, and their horses were 
picketed imder the trees, and even in the street. 

Every minute the numbers increased as others arrived ; 
jnen, too (who had obtained permission of their lords), 
came in on foot, ten or twelve travelling together for 
mutual protection, for the feuds of their masters exposed 
them to frequent attack. All (except the nobles) were 
disarmed at the barrier by the warden and guard, that 
peace might be preserved in the enclosure. The folk at 
the moment he passed were watching the descent of three 
covered waggons rrom the forest track, in which were 
travelling the ladies of as many noble femilies. 



THYMA CASTLE 135 

Some, indeed, of the youngest and boldest ride on 
horseback, but ladies chiefly move in these waggons, 
which are fitted up with considerable comfort, and are 
necessary to sleep in when the camp is formed by the 
wayside at night. None noticed him as he went by, 
except a group of three cottage girls, and a serving-woman, 
an attendant of a lady visitor at the castle. He heard 
them allude to him ; he quickened his pace, but heard one 
say, " He's nobody ; he hasn't even got a horse." 

" Yes, he is," replied the serving-woman ; " he's Oliver's 
brother ; and I can tell you my lord Oliver is somebody ; 
the Princess Lucia " and she made the motion of kiss- 
ing with her lips. Felix, ashamed and annoyed to the 
last degree, stepped rapidly from the spot. The serVing- 
woman, however, was right in a measure ; the real or 
supposed favour shown Oliver by the Prince's sister, the 
Duchess of Deverell, had begun to be bruited abroad, and 
this was the secret reason why the Baron had shown 
Oliver so much and so marked an attention, even more 
than he had paid to Lord Durand. 

Full well he knew the extraordinary influence possessed 
by ladies of rank and position. From what we can learn 
out of the scanty records of the past, it was so even in the 
days of the ancients ; it is a hundredfold more so in these 
times, when, although every noble must of necessity be 
taught to read and write, as a matter of fact the men do 
neither, but all the correspondence of kings and princes, 
and the diplomatic documents, and notices, and so forth, 
are one and all, almost without a single exception, drawn 



136 AFTER LONDON 

up by women. They know the secret and hidden motives 
of courts, and have this great advantage, that they can use 
their knowledge without personal fear, since women are 
never seriously interfered with, but are protected by all. 

The one terrible and utterly shameful instance to the 
contrary had not occurred at the time of which we are 
now speaking, and it was and is still repudiated by every 
man, from the knight to the boys who gather the acorns 
for the swine. Oliver himself had no idea whatever that 
he was regarded as a favourite lover of the Duchess ; he 
took the welcome that was held out to him as perfectly 
honest. Plain, straightforward, and honest, Oliver, had 
he been openly singled out by a queen, would have 
scorned to give himself an air for such a reason. But the 
Baron, deep in intrigue this many a year, looked more 
profoundly into the possibilities of the future when hq 
kept the young knight at his side. 



CHAPTER IX. 
SUPERSTITIONS. 

Felix was now outside the town, and alone in the meadow 
which bordered the stream ; he knelt, and drank from it 
with the hollow of his hand. He was going to ascend 
the hill beyond, and had already reached the barrier upon 
that side, when he recollected that etiquette demanded the 
presence of the guests at meal-times, and it was now the 
hour for tea. He hastened back, and found the courtyard 



SUPERSTITIONS 137 

of the castle crowded. Within, the staircase leading to 
the Baroness's chamber (where tea was seived) could 
scarcely be ascended, what with the ladies and their 
courtiers, the long trains of the serving-women, the pages 
winding their way in and out, the servants endeavouring 
to pass, the slender pet greyhounds, the inseparable com- 
panions of their mistresses. 

By degrees, and exercising patience, he gained the upper 
floor, and entered the drawing-room. The Baroness alone 
sat at the table, the guests wheresoever they chose, or 
chance carried them ; for the most part they stood, or 
leaned against the recess of the open window. Of tea 
itself there was none ; there has been no tea to be had for 
love or money these fifty years past, and, indeed, its use 
would have been forgotten, and the name only survived, 
had not some small quantities been yet preserved and 
brought out on rare occasions at the palaces. Instead, 
there was chicory prepared from the root of the plant, 
grown for the purpose ; fresh milk ; fine ale and mead ; 
and wine of Gloucester. Butter, honey, and cake were 
also upon the table. 

The guests helped themselves, or waited till the servants 
came to them with carved wooden trays. The particular 
characteristic of tea is the freedom from restraint ; it is 
not considered necessary to sit as at dinner or supper, nor 
to do as others do ; each pleases himself, and there is no 
ceremony. Yet, although so near Aurora, Felix did not 
succeed in speaking to her ; Durand still engaged her 
attention whenever other ladies were not talking with her. 



138 AFTER LONDON 

Felix found himself, exactly as at dinner-time, quite out- 
side the circle. There was a buzz of conversation around, 
but not a word of it was addressed to him. Dresses 
brushed against him, but the fair owners were not con- 
cerned even to acknowledge his existence. 

Pushed by the jostling crowd aside from the centre of 
the floor, Felix presently sat down, glad to rest at last, 
behind the open door. Forgotten, he forgot ; and, look- 
ing, as it were, out of the present in a bitter reverie, 
scarcely knew where he was, except at moments when he 
heard the well-known and loved voice of Aurora. A 
servant after a while came to him with a tray ; he took 
some honey and bread. Almost immediately afterwards 
another servant came and presented him with a plate, on 
which was a cup of wine, saying, " With my lady's 
loving wishes." 

As in duty bound, he rose and bowed to the Baroness ; 
slie smiled and nodded ; the circle, which had looked to 
see who was thus honoured, turned aside again, not 
recognising him. To send a guest a plate with wine or 
food is the highest mark of esteem, and this plate in 
especial was of almost priceless value, as Felix saw when 
his confusion had abated. It was of the ancient china,, 
now not to be found in even the houses of the great. 

In all that kingdom but five perfect plates were known 
to exist, and two of these were at the palace. They are 
treasured as heirlooms, and, if ever broken, can never be 
replaced. The very fragments are rare; they are often 
set in panels, and highly prized. The Baroness, glancing 



SUPERSTITIONS 139 

round her court, had noticed at last the young man sitting 
in the obscure corner behind the door ; she remembered, 
not without some twinge of conscience, that his house was 
their ancient ally and sworn hearth-friend. 

She knew, far better than the Baron, how deeply her 
daughter loved him ; better, perhaps, even than Aurora 
herself. She, too, naturally hoped a higher alliance for 
Aurora; yet she was a true woman, and her heart was 
stronger than her ambition. The trifle of the wine was, 
of course, nothing ; but it was open and marked recogni- 
tion. She expected that Felix (after his wont in former 
times, before love or marriage was thought of for Aurora) 
would have come upon this distinct invitation, and taken 
his stand behind her, after the custom. But as he did not 
come, fresh guests and the duties of hospitality distracted 
her attention, and she again forgot him. 

He was, indeed, more hurt than pleased with the favour 
that had been shown him ; it seemed to him (though 
really prompted by the kindest feeling) like a bone cast at 
a dog. He desired to be so regarded that no special mark 
of favour should be needed. It simply increased his dis- 
content. The evening wore on, the supper began ; how 
weary it seemed to him, that long and jovial supper, with 
the ale that ran in a continual stream, the wine that 
ceaselessly circled round, the jokes, the bustle, and laughter, 
the welcome to guests arriving ; the cards, and chess, and 
games that succeeded it, the drinking, and drinking, and 
drinking, till the ladies again left ; then drinking yet more 
freely. 



140 AFTER LONDON 

He slipped away at the first opportunity, and having 
first strolled to and fro on the bowling green, wet with 
dew, at the rear of the castle, asked for his bedroom. It 
was some time before he could get attended to ; he stood 
alone at the foot of the staircase while others went first 
(their small coins bought them attention), till at last a 
lamp was brought to him, and his chamber named. That 
chamber, such as it was, was the only pleasure, and that a 
melancholy one, he had had that day. 

Though overflowing with guests, so that the most 
honoured visitors could not be accommodated within the 
castle, and only the ladies could find sleeping room there, 
yet the sacred law of honour, the pledge of the hearth- 
friend passed three generations ago, secured him this 
privilege. The hearth-friend must sleep within, if a kmg 
were sent without. Oliver, of course, would occupy the 
same room, but he was drinking and shouting a song 
below, so that for awhile Felix had the chamber to 
himself. 

It pleased him, because it was the room in which he 
had always slept when he visited the place from a boy, 
when, half afraid and yet determined to venture, he had 
first come through the forest alone. How well he 
remembered the first time! the autumn sunshine on the 
stubble at Old House, and the red and brown leaves of 
the forest as he entered; how he entered on foot, and 
twice turned back, and twice adventured again, till he got 
so deep into the forest that it seemed as far to return as to 
advance. How he started at the sudden bellow of two 



SUPERSTITIONS 141 

stags, and the clatter of their horns as they fought in the 
brake close by, and how beautiful the castle looked when 
presently he emerged from the bushes and looked down 
upon it ! 

This was the very room he slept in ; the Baroness, 
mother-like, came to see that he was comfortable. Here 
he had slept every time since ; here he had listened in the 
early morning for Aurora's footfall as she passed his door, 
for the ladies rose earlier than did the men. He now sat 
down by the open window ; it was a brilliant moonlight 
night, warm and delicious, and the long-drawn note of 
the nightingale came across the gardens from the hawthorn 
bushes without the inner stockade. To the left he could 
see the line of the hills, to the right the forest ; all was 
quiet there, but every now and then the sound of a ballad 
came round the castle, a sound without recognisable words, 
inarticulate merriment. 

If he started upon the hazardous voyage he contem- 
plated, and for which he had been so long preparing, 
should he ever sleep there again, so near the one he 
loved? Was it not better to be poor and despised, but 
near her, than to attempt such an expedition, especially as 
the chances (as his common sense told him) were all 
against him ? Yet he could not stay ; he must do it, and 
he tried to stifle the doubt which insisted upon arising in 
his mind. Then he recurred to Durand ; he remembered 
that not once on that day had he exchanged one single 
word, beyond the first and ordinary salutation, with 
Aurora. 



143 AFTER LONDON 

Might she not, had she chosen, have arranged a moment's 
interview? Might she not easily have given him an 
opportunity ? Was it not clear that she was ashamed of 
her girlish fancy for a portionless and despised youth ? If 
so, was it worth while to go upon so strange an enterprise 
for her sake ? But if so, also, was life worth living, and 
might he not as well go and seek destruction ? 

While this conflict of feeling was proceeding, he 
chanced to look towards the table upon which he had 
carelessly placed his lamp, and observed, what in his 
agitated state of mind he had previously overlooked, a 
small roll of manuscript tied round with silk. Curious in 
books, he undid the fastening, and opened the volume. 
There was not much writing, but many singular diagrams, 
and signs arranged in circles. It was, in fact, a book of 
magic, written at the dictation, as the preface stated, of 
one who had been for seven years a slave among the 
Romany. 

He had been captured, and forced to work for the tent 
to which his owners belonged. He had witnessed their 
worship and their sorceries ; he had seen the sacrifice to 
the full moon, their chief goddess, and the wild extrava- 
gances with which it was accompanied. He had learnt 
some few of their signs, and, upon escaping, had reproduced 
them from memory. Some were engraved on the stones 
set in their rings ; some were carved on wooden tablets, 
some drawn with ink on parchment ; but, with all, their 
procedure seemed to be the repetition of certain verses, 
and then a steady gaze upon the picture. Presently they 



SUPERSTITIONS 143 

became filled with rapture, uttered what sounded as the 
wildest ravings, and (their women especially) prophesied 
of the future. 

A few of the signs he understood the meaning of, but 
the others he owned were unknown to him. At the end 
of the book were several pages of commentary, describing 
the demons believed in and worshipped by the Romany, 
demons which haunted the woods and hills, and against 
which it was best to be provided with amulets blessed by the 
holy fathers of St. Augustine. Such demons stole on the 
hunter at noonday, and, alarmed at the sudden appearance, 
upon turning his head (for demons invariably approach 
from behind, and their presence is indicated by a shudder 
in the back), he toppled into pits hidden by fern, and was 
killed. 

Or, in the shape or a dog, they ran between the 
traveller's legs ; or as women, with tempting caress, lured 
him from the way at nightfall into the leafy recesses, and 
then instantaneously changing into vast bat-like forms, 
fastened on his throat and sucked his blood. The terrible 
screams of such victims had often been heard by the 
warders at the outposts. Some were invisible, and yet 
slew the unwary by descending unseen upon him, and 
choking him with a pressure as if the air had suddenly 
become heavy. 

But none of these were, perhaps, so much to be dreaded 
as the sweetly-formed and graceful ladies of the fern. 
These were creatures, not of flesh and blood, and yet not 
incorporeal like the demons, nor were they dangerous to 



144 AFTER LONDON 

the physical man, doing no bodily injury. The harm 
they did was by fascinating the soul, so that it revolted 
from all religion and all the rites of the Church. Once 
resigned to the caress of the fern-woman, the unfortunate 
was lured farther and farther from the haunts of men, 
until at last he wandered into the unknown forest, and 
was never seen again. These creatures were usually found 
among the brake fern, nude, but the lower limbs and body 
hidden by the green fronds, their white arms and shoulders 
alone visible, and their golden hair aglow with the summer 
sunshine. 

Demons there were, too, of the streams, and demons 
dwelling in the midst of the hills; demons that could 
travel only in the moonbeams, and others that floated 
before the stormy winds and hurled the wretched wanderer 
to destruction, or crushed him with overthrown trees. In 
proof of this the monk asked the reader if he had not 
heard of huge boughs falling from trees without visible 
cause, suddenly and without warning, and even of trees 
themselves in full foliage, in calm weather, toppling with 
a crash, to the imminent danger or the death of those 
who happened to be passing. Let all these purchase 
the amulets of St. Augustine, concluded the writer, 
who it appeared was a monk in whose monastery the 
escaped prisoner had taken refuge, and who had written 
down his relation and copied his rude sketches. 

Felix pored over the strange diagrams, striving to under- 
stand the hidden meaning ; some of them he thought were 
alchemical signs, and related to the making of gold, especi- 



SUPERSTITIONS 145 

ally as the prisoner stated the Romany possessed much 
more of that metal in their tents than he had seen in the 
palaces of our kings. Whether they had a gold-mine 
from whence they drew it, or whether they had the art 
of transmutation, he knew not, but he had heard allusions 
to the wealth in the mountain of the apple-trees, which 
he supposed to be a mystical phrase. 

When Felix at last looked up, the lamp was low, the 
moonbeams had entered and fell upon the polished floor, 
and from the window he could see a long white ghostly 
line of mist where a streamlet ran at the base of the slope 
by the forest. The songs were silent ; there was no 
sound save the distant neigh of a horse and the heavy 
tramp of a guest coming along the gallery. Half be- 
wildered by poring over the magic scroll, full of the signs 
and the demons, and still with a sense of injury and 
jealousy cankering his heart, Felix retired to his couch, 
and, weary beyond measure, instantly fell asleep. 

In his unsettled state of mind it did not once occur to 
him to ask himself how the manuscript came to be upon 
his table. Rare as they were, books were not usually put 
upon the tables of guests, and at an ordinary time he 
would certainly have thought it peculiar. The fact was, 
that Aurora, whom all day he had inwardly accused of 
forgetting him, had placed it there for him with her own 
hands. She, too, was curious in books and fond of study. 
She had very recently bought the volume from a merchant 
who had come thus far, and who valued it the least of all 
his wares. 

10 



146 AFTER LONDON 

She knew that Felix had read and re-read every other 
scrap of writing there was in the castle, and thought that 
this strange book might interest him, giving, as it did, 
details of those powers of the air in which almost all fully 
believed. Unconscious of this attention, Felix fell asleep, 
angry and bitter against her. When, half an hour after- 
wards, Oliver blundered into the room, a little unsteady 
on his legs, notwithstanding his mighty strength, he picked 
up the roll, glanced at it, flung it down with contempt, 
and without a minute's delay sought and obtained slumber. 



CHAPTER X. 

THE FEAST. 

At ten in the morning next day the feast began with a 
drama from Sophocles, which was performed in the open 
air. The theatre was in the gardens between the wall 
and the inner stockade ; the spectators sat on the slope, 
tier above tier ; the actors appeared upon a green terrace 
below, issuing from an arbour and passing off" behind a 
thick box-hedge on the other side of the terrace. There 
was no scenery whatever. 

Aurora had selected the Antigone. There were not 
many dramatists from whom to choose, for so many 
English writers, once famous, had dropped out of know- 
ledge and disappeared. Yet some of the far more ancient 
Greek and Roman classics remained because they con- 
tained depth and originality of ideas in small compass. 



THE FEAST 147 

They had been copied in manuscripts by thoughtful men 
from the old printed books before they mouldered away, 
and their manuscripts being copied again, these works 
were handed down. The bool:^ which came into exist- 
ence with printing had never been copied by the pen, and 
had consequently nearly disappeared. Extremely long and 
diffuse, it was found, too, that so many of them were but 
enlargements of ideas or sentiments which had been ex- 
pressed in a few words by the classics. It is so much easier 
to copy an epigram of two lines than a printed book of 
hundreds of pages, and hence it v/as that Sophocles had 
survived while much more recent writers had been lost. 

From a translation Aurora had arranged several of his 
dramas. Antigone was her favourite, and she wished 
Felix to see it. In some indefinable manner the spirit of 
the ancient Greeks seemed to her in accord with the 
times, for men had, or appeared to have, so little control 
over their own lives that they might well imagine them- 
selves overruled by destiny. Communication between one 
place and another was difficult, the division of society into 
castes, and the iron tyranny of arms prevented the indi- 
vidual from making any progress in lifting himself out of 
the groove in which he was born, except by the rarest 
opportunity, unless specially favoured by fortune. As men 
were born so they lived ; they could not advance, and 
when this is the case the idea of Fate is always predomi- 
nant. The workings of destiny, the Irresistible over- 
powering both the good and the evil-disposed, such as 
were traced in the Greek drama, were paralleled in the 

10 — 2 



148 AFTER LONDON 

lives of many a miserable slave at that day. They were 
forced to endure, for there was no possibility of effort. 

Aurora saw this and felt it deeply ; ever anxious as she 
was for the good of all, she saw the sadness that reigned 
even in the midst of the fresh foliage of spring and among 
the flowers. It was Fate ; it was Sophocles. 

She took the part of the heroine herself, clad in Greek 
costume ; Felix listened and watched, absorbed in his love. 
Never had that ancient drama appeared so beautiful as 
then, in the sunlight ; the actors stepped upon the daisied 
sward, and the song of birds was all their music. 

While the play was still proceeding, those who were to 
form the usual procession had already been assembling in 
the court before the castle, and just after noon, to the 
sound of the trumpet, the Baron, with his youngest son 
beside him (the eldest was at Court), left the porch, wear- 
ing his fur-lined short mantle, his collar, and golden spurs, 
and the decoration won so many years before ; all the 
insignia of his rank. He walked ; his war-horse, fully 
caparisoned, with axe at the saddle-bow, was led at his 
right side, and upon the other came a knight carrying the 
banneret of the house. 

The gentlemen of the house followed closely, duly mar- 
shalled in ranks, and wearing the gayest dress ; the leading 
retainers, fully armed, brought up the rear. Immediately 
upon issuing from the gate of the wall, the procession was 
met and surrounded by the crowd, carrying large branches 
of may in bloom, flowers, and green willow boughs. The 
flowers they flung before him on the ground ; the branches 



THE FEAST 149 

they bore with them, chaunting old verses in honour of 
the family. The route was through the town, where the 
Baron stopped at the door of the Court House, and pro- 
claimed a free pardon to all serfs (who were released within 
a few minutes) not guilty of the heavier crimes. 

Thence he went to the pasture just beyond, carefully 
mown close and swept for the purpose, where the May- 
pole stood, wreathed with flowers and green branches. 
Beneath it he deposited a bag of money for distribution 
upon a carved butt placed there, the signal that the games 
were open. Instantly the fiddles began to play, and the 
feast really commenced. At the inns ale was served out 
freely (at the Baron's charge), carts, too, came down from 
the castle laden with ale and cooked provisions. Wishing 
them joy, the Baron returned by the same road to the 
castle, where dinner was already served in the hall and 
the sheds that had been erected to enlarge the accommo- 
dation. 

In the afternoon there were foot-races, horse-races, and 
leaping competitions, and the dances about the May-pole 
were prolonged far into the night. The second day, 
early in the morning, the barriers were opened, and trials 
of skill with the blunt sword, jousting with the blunt 
lance at the quintain, and wrestling began, and continued 
almost till sunset. Tournament with sharpened lance or 
sword, when the combatants fight with risk of serious 
wounds, can take place only in the presence of the Prince 
or his deputy. But in these conflicts sufficiently severe 
blows were given to disable the competitors. 



150 AFTER LONDON 

On the third day there was a set battle in the morning 
between fifteen men on each side, armed with the usual 
buckler or small shield, and stout single-sticks instead of 
swords. This combat excited more interest than all the 
duels that had preceded it ; the crowd almost broke down 
the barriers, and the cheering and cries of encouragement 
could be heard upon the hills. Thrice the combatants 
rested from the engagement, and thrice at the trumpet 
call started again to meet each other, at least, those who 
had sustained the first onslaught. 

Blood, indeed, was not shed (for the iron morions saved 
their skulls), but nearly half of the number required assis- 
tance to reach the tents pitched for their use. Then 
came more feasting, the final dinner prolonged till six in 
the evening, when the company, constantly rising from " 
their seats, cheered the Baron, and drank to the prosperity 
of the house. After the horn blew at six, the guests who 
had come from a distance rapidly dispersed (their horses 
were already waiting), for they were anxious to pass the 
fifteen miles of forest before nightfall. Those on foot, 
and those ladies who had come in covered waggons, stayed 
till next morning, as they could not travel so speedily. 
By seven or eight the castle courtyard was comparatively 
empty, and the Baron, weary from the mere bodily efforts 
of saying farewell to so many, had flung himself at full 
length on a couch in the drawing-room. 

During the whole of this time Felix had not obtained a 
single moment with Aurora ; her time, when not occupied 
in attending to the guests, was always claimed by Lord 



THE FEAST 151 

Durand. Felix, after the short-lived but pure pleasure 
he had enjoyed in watching her upon the grass-grown 
stage, had endured three days of misery. He was among 
the crowd, he was in the castle itself, he sat at table with 
the most honoured visitors, yet he was distinct from all. 
There was no sympathy between them and him. The 
games, the dancing, the feasting and laughter, the ceaseless 
singing and shouting, and jovial jostling, jarred upon him. 

The boundless interest the people took in the combats, 
and especially that of the thirty, seemed to him a strange 
and inexplicable phenomenon. It did not excite him in 
the least ; he could turn his back upon it without hesita- 
tion. He would, indeed, have left the crowd, and spent 
the day in the forest, or on the hills, but he could not 
leave Aurora. He must be near her ; he must see her, 
though he was miserable. Now he feared that the last 
moment would come, and that he should not exchange a 
word with her. 

He could not, with any show of pretext, prolong his 
stay beyond the sunset ; all were already gone, with the 
exceptions mentioned. It would be against etiquette to 
remain longer, unless specially invited, and he was not 
specially invited. Yet he lingered, and lingered. His 
horse was ready below ; the groom, weary of holding the 
bridle, had thrown it over an iron hook in the yard, and 
gone about other business. The sun perceptibly declined, 
and the shadow of the beeches of the forest began to 
descend the grassy slope. Still he stayed, restlessly moving, 
now in the dining chamber, now in the hall, now at the 



152 AFTER LONDON 

foot of the staircase, with an unpleasant feeling that the 
servants looked at him curiously, and were watching him. 

Oliver had gone long since, riding with his new friend 
Lord Durand ; they must by now be halfway through the 
forest. Forced by the inexorable flight of time, he put 
his foot upon the staircase to go up to the drawing-room 
and bid farewell to the Baroness. He ascended it, step 
by step, as a condemned person goes to his doom. He 
stayed to look out of the open windows as he went by; 
anything to excuse delay to himself. He reached the 
landing at last, and had taken two steps towards the door, 
when Aurora's maid, who had been waiting there an 
hour or more for the opportunity, brushed past him, and 
whispered, " The Rose arbour." 

Without a word he turned, hastened down the stairs, 
ran through the castle yard, out at the gate, and, entering 
the gardens between the wall and the inner stockade, 
made for the arbour on the terrace where the drama had 
been enacted. Aurora was not there ; but as he looked 
round, disappointed, she came from the Filbert walk, and, 
taking his arm, led him to the arbour. They sat down 
without a word. In a moment she placed her head upon 
his shoulder ; he did not respond. She put her arm (how 
warm it felt !) about his neck ; he yielded stiffly and un- 
graciously to the pressure ; she drew down his head, and 
kissed him. His lips touched but did not press hers ; they 
met, but did not join. In his sullen and angry silence he 
would not look. She drew still nearer, and whispered his 
name. 



THE FEAST 153 

Then he broke out : he pushed her away ; his petty 
jealousy and injured self-esteem poured out upon her. 

"I am not the heir to an earldom," he said; "I 
do not ride with a score of gentlemen at my back. 
They have some wonderful diamonds, have they not — 
Countess ?" 

"Felix!" 

" It is no use. Yes, your voice is sweet, I know. But 
you, all of you, despise me. I am nothing, no one !" 

" You are all, everything^ to me." 

" You were with — with Durand the whole time." 

" I could not help myself." 

" Not help yourself ! Do you think I believe that ?" 

"Felix, dear. I tell you I could not help myself; I 
could not, indeed. You do not know all " 

" No, probably not. I do not know the terms of the 
marriage contract." 

" Felix, there is no such thing. Why, what has come 
to you ? How pale you look ! Sit down 1" for he had 
risen. 

" I cannot, Aurora dear ; I cannot ! Oh, what shall 
I do ? I love you so !" 



154 AFTER LONDON 

CHAPTER XI. 

AURORA. 

Felix fell on the seat beside her, burying his face in the 
folds of her dress ; he sobbed, not with tears, but choking 
passion. She held him to her heart as if he had been a 
child, stroking his hair and kissing it, whispering to him, 
assuring him that her love was his, that she was unchanged. 
She told him that it was not her fault, A little while 
before the feast the Baron had suddenly broken out into 
a fit of temper, such as she had never seen him indulge in 
previously ; the cause was pressure put upon him by his 
creditors. Unpleasant truths had escaped him ; amongst 
the rest, his dislike, his positive disapproval of the tacit 
engagement they had entered into. 

He declared that if the least outward sign of it appeared 
before the guests that were expected, he would order 
Felix to leave the place, and cancel the hearth-friendship, 
no matter what the consequence. It was clear that he 
was set upon a wealthy and powerful alliance for her ; 
that the Earl was either coming, or would send his son, 
he knew ; and he knew that nothing so repels a possible 
suitor as the rumour that the lady has a previous engage- 
ment. In short, he made it a condition of Felix's presence 
being tolerated at all, that Aurora should carefully abstain 
from showing the slightest attention to him ; that she 
should ignore his existence. 

Nor could she prevent Durand following her without a 



AURORA 155 

marked refusal to listen to his conversation, a refusal which 
would have certainly at once brought about the dreaded 
explosion. She thought it better, under the circumstances, 
to preserve peace, lest intercourse between her and Felix 
should be entirely broken off for ever. This was the 
secret history of the apparent indifference and neglect 
which had so deeply hurt him. The explanation, 
accompanied as it was with so many tender expres- 
sions and caresses, soothed him ; he returned her kisses 
and became calmer. He could not doubt her, for in 
his heart he had suspected something of the kind long 
since. 

Yet it was not so much the explanation itself, nor even 
the love she poured upon him, as the mere fact of her 
presence so near that brought him to himself. The 
influence of her steadfast nature, of her clear, broad, 
straightforward view of things, the decision of her char- 
acter, the high, unselfish motives which animated her, all 
together supplied that which was wanting in himself. 
His indecision, his too impressionable disposition, which 
checked and stayed the force of his talent, and counter- 
acted the determination of a naturally iron will ; these, as 
it were, were relieved ; in a word, with her he became 
himself. 

How many times he had told her as much ! How 
jnany times she had replied that it was not herself, but 
that in which she believed, that was the real cause of this 
feeling ! It was that ancient and true religion ; the 
religion ot the primitive church, as she found it in the 



156 AFTER LONDON 

fragments of the Scriptures that had come down from the 
ancients. 

Aurora had learnt this faith from childhood ; it was, 
indeed, a tradition of the house preserved unbroken these 
hundred years in the midst of the jarring creeds, whose 
disciples threatened and destroyed each other. On the 
one hand, the gorgeous rite of the Vice-Pope, with the 
priests and the monks, claimed dominion, and really held 
a large share, both over the body and the soul ; on the 
other, the Leaguers, with their bold, harsh, and flowerless 
creed, were equally overbearing and equally bigoted. 
Around them the Bushmen wandered without a god ; the 
Romany called upon the full moon. Within courts and 
cities the gay and the learned alike mocked at all faith, 
and believed in gold alone. 

Cruelty reigned everywhere ; mercy, except in the 
name of honour, there was none ; humanity was unknown. 
A few, a very few only, had knowledge of or held to the 
leading tenets, which in the time of the ancients, were 
assented to by everyone, such as the duty of humanity to 
all, the duty of saving and protecting life, of kindness and 
gentleness. These few, with their pastors, simple and 
unassuming, had no power or influence ; yet they existed 
here and there, a living protest against the lawlessness and 
brutality of the time. 

Among these the house of Thyma had in former days 
been conspicuous, but of late years the barons of Thyma 
had, more from policy than aught else, rather ignored 
their ancestral faith, leaning towards the League, which 



AURORA 157 

was then powerful in that kingdom. To have acted 
otherwise would have been to exclude themselves from all 
appointments. But Aurora, learning the old faith at her 
mother's knee, had become too deeply imbued with its 
moral beauty to consent to this course. By degrees, as 
she grew up, it became in her a passion ; more than a 
faith, a passion ; the object of her life. 

A girl, indeed, can do but little in our iron days, but 
that little she did. The chapel beside the castle, long 
since fallen to decay, was, at her earnest request, repaired ; 
a pastor came and remained as chaplain, and services, of 
the simplest kind, but serious and full of meaning, took 
place twice a week. To these she drew as many as 
possible of the inhabitants of the enclosure ; some even 
came from afar once now and then to attend them. Corre- 
spondence was carried on with the remnant of the faith. 

That no one might plead ignorance (for there was up 
to that date no written record) Aurora set herself the task 
of reducing the traditions which had been handed down 
to writing. When the manuscript was at last completed 
it occupied her months to transcribe copies of it for circu- 
lation ; and she still continued to make copies, which 
were sent by messengers and by the travelling merchants 
to the markets, and even across the sea. Apart from its 
intrinsically elevating character, the mere mental labour 
expended on this work had undoubtedly strengthened a 
naturally fine intellect. As she said, it was the faith, the 
hope that that faith would one day be recognised, which 
gave her so much influence over others. 



158 AFTER LONDON 

Upon this one thing only they differed; Felix did not 
oppose, did not even argue, he was simply untouched. It 
was not that he believed in anything else, nor that he 
doubted ; he was merely indifferent. He had too great a 
natural aptitude for the physical sciences, and too clear a 
mind, to accept that which was taught by the one or the 
other of the two chief opposing parties. Nor could he 
join in the ridicule and derision of the gay courtiers, for 
the mystery of existence had impressed him deeply while 
wandering alone in the forest. But he stood aloof; he 
smiled and listened, unconvinced ; like the wild creatures 
of the forest, he had no ears for these matters. He loved 
Aurora, that was all. 

But he felt the influence just the same ; with all his 
power of mind and contempt of superstitions in others, he 
could not at times shake off the apprehensions aroused by 
untoward omens, as when he stepped upon the adder in 
the woods. Aurora knew nothing of such things ; her 
faith was clear and bright like a star ; nothing could alarm 
her, or bring uneasiness of mind. This beautiful calm, not 
cold, but glowing with hope and love, soothed him. 

That evening, with her hope and love, with her 
message of trust, she almost persuaded him. He almost 
turned to what she had so long taught. He almost repented 
of that hardness of heart, that unutterable distance, as it 
were, between him and other men, which lay at the 
bottom of his proposed expedition. He opened his lips to 
confess to her his purpose, and had he done so, assuredly 
she would have persuaded him from it. But in the very 



AURORA 159 

act of speaking, he hesitated. It was cliaracteristic of him 
to do so. Whether she instinctively felt that there was 
something concealed from her, or guessed that the dis- 
content she knew he had so long endured was coming to 
a point, or feared lest what she had told him might drive 
him to some ill-considered act, she begged him with all 
the power of her love to do nothing hasty, or in despair, 
nothing that would separate them. He threw his arms 
around her, he pressed her closely to him, he trembled 
with the passion and the struggle within him. 

" My lady calls for you, Mademoiselle," said a voice ; 
it was Aurora's maid who had kept watch. " She has 
asked for you some time since. Someone is coming into 
the garden !" 

There was no help for it ; Aurora kissed him, and was 
gone before he could come to himselt. How long the 
interview had lasted (time flies swiftly in such sweet inter- 
course), or how long he sat there after she left, he could 
not tell ; but when he went out, already the dusk was 
gathering, the sun had gone down, and in the east the as 
yet pale orb of the moon was rising over the hills. As ir 
in a dream he walked with unsteady steps to the castle 
stable ; his horse had been put back, and the grooms 
suggested to him that it was better not to attempt the 
forest at night. But he was determined ; he gave them 
all the coin he had about him — it was not much, but more 
than they had expected. 

They ran beside him to the barrier ; advising him as 
they ran, as he would go, to string his bow and loosen an 



i6o AFTER LONDON 

arrow in his girdle, and, above all, not to loiter, or let his 
horse walk, but to keep him at as sharp a trot as he could. 
The fact that so many wealthy persons had assembled at 
the castle for the feast would be sure to be known to the 
banditti (the outlaws of the cities and the escaped serfs). 
They were certain to be on the look-out for travellers ; let 
him beware. 

His ears tingled and his head felt hot, as if the blood 
had rushed into it (it was the violence of the emotion that 
he had felt), as he rode from the barrier, hearing, and yet 
without conscious knowledge of what they said. They 
watched him up the slope, and saw him disappear from 
sight under the dark beeches of the forest. 



CHAPTER XII. 

NIGHT IN THE FOREST. 

At first Felix rode quickly, but his horse stumbling, 
though accustomed to the woods, warned him to be more 
careful. The passage of so many horsemen in the last few 
days had cut up and destroyed the track, which was nothing 
but a green path, and the covered waggons had of course 
assisted in rendering it rough and broken. He therefore 
rode slowly, and giving his horse his head, he picked his 
way of his own accord at the side of the road, often 
brushing against the underwood. 

Still, indeed, absorbed by the feelings which had almost 
mastered him in the arbour, and thinking of Aurora, he 



NIGHT IN THE FOREST i6i 

forgot where he was, till the dismal howling of wood-dogs 
deep in the forest woke him. It was almost pitch dark 
under the tall beeches, the highest of the trees preventing 
the beams of the moon from illuminating the path till 
later in the night. Like a curtain, the thick foliage above 
shut out the sky, so that no star was visible. When the 
wood-dogs ceased there was no sound beyond the light 
fall of the horse's hoofs as he walked upon the grass. 
Darkness and silence prevailed ; he could see nothing. 
He spoke to his horse and patted his neck ; he stepped a 
little faster and lifted his head, which he had held low, as 
if making his way by scent. 

The gloom weighed upon him, unhappy as he was. 
Often as he had voluntarily sought the loneliness of the 
woods, now, in this state of mind, it oppressed him. He 
remembered that beyond the beeches the ground was open 
and cleared by a forest fire, and began to be anxious to 
reach it. It seemed an hour, but it really was only a few 
minutes, when the beeches became thinner and wider 
apart, the foliage above ceased, and the stars shone. 
Before him was the open space he had desired, sloping to 
the right hand, the tall grass grey-green in the moonlight, 
and near at hand sparkling with dew. 

Amongst it stood the crooked and charred stems of furze 
with which it had been covered before the fire passed. A 
white owl floated rather than flew by, following the edge 
of the forest ; from far down the slope came the chattering 
notes of a brook-sparrow, showing that there was water in 
the hollow. Some large animal moved into the white 

II 



i62 AFTER LONDON 

mist that hung there and immediately concealed it, like a 
cloud upon the ground. He was not certain in the dim 
light, and with so momentary and distant a view, but 
supposed from its size that it must have been a white or 
dun wood-cow. 

Ahead, across the open, rose the dark top of the fir- 
trees through which the route ran. Instead of the relief 
which he had anticipated as he rode towards them, the 
space clear of trees around seemed to expose him to the 
full view of all that might be lurking in the forest. As 
he approached the firs and saw how dark it was beneath 
them, the shadowy depths suggested uncertain shapes 
hiding therein, and his memory immediately reverted to 
the book of magic he had read at the castle. 

There could not be such things, and yet no one in his 
heart doubted their existence ; deny it as they might with 
their tongues as they sat at the supper-table and handed 
round the ale, out of doors in the night, the haste to pass 
the haunted spot, the bated breath, and the fearful glances 
cast around, told another tale. He endeavoured to call 
philosophy to his aid ; he remembered, too, how many 
nights he had spent in the deepest forest without seeing 
anything, and without even thinking of such matters. He 
reproved himself for his folly, and asked himself if ever he 
could hope to be a successful leader of men who started at 
a shadow. In vain : the tone of his mind had been 
weakened by the strain it had undergone. 

Instead of strengthening him, the teachings of philosophy 
now seemed cold and feeble, and it occurred to him that 



NIGHT IN THE FOREST 163 

possibly the belief of the common people (fully shared by 
their religious instructors) was just as much entitled 
to credence as these mere suppositions and theories. The 
details of the volume recurred to his mind ; the accurate 
description of the demons of the forest and the hill, and 
especially the horrible vampires enfolding the victim with 
outstretched wings. In spite of himself, incredulous, yet 
excited, he pressed his horse to greater speed, though the 
track was narrow and very much broken under the firs. 
The animal obeyed, and trotted, but reluctantly, and 
needed continual urging. 

The yellow spark of a glowworm shining by a bush 
made him set his teeth ; trifling and well known as it was, 
the light, suddenly seen, thrilled him with the terror of the 
unexpected. Strange rushings sounded among the fern, as 
if the wings of a demon brushed it as he travelled. Felix 
knew that they were caused by rabbits hastening off, or 
a boar bounding away, yet they increased the feverish 
excitement with which he was burdened. Though dark 
beneath the firs, it was not like the darkness of the 
beeches ; these trees did not form a perfect canopy over- 
head everywhere. In places he could see where a streak 
of moonlight came aslant through an opening and reached 
the ground. One such streak fell upon the track ahead ; 
the trees there had decayed and fallen, and a broad band 
of light lit up the way. 

As he approached it and had almost entered, suddenlyr 
something shot towards him in the air ; a flash, as it were, 
as if some object had crossed the streak, and was rendered 

II — 2 



i64 AFTER LONDON 

visible for the tenth of a second, like a mote in the sun- 
beams. At the same instant of time, the horse, which he 
had pressed to go faster, put his foot into a rut or hole, and 
stumbled, and Felix was flung so far forward that he only 
saved himself from being thrown by clinging to his neck. 
A slight whizzing sound passed over his head, followed 
immediately by a sharp tap against a tree in his rear. 

The thing happened in the twinkling of an eye, but he 
recognised the sound ; it was the whizz of a crossbow 
bolt, which had missed his head, and buried its point in a 
fir. The stumble saved him ; the bolt would have struck 
his head or chest had not the horse gone nearly on his 
knee. The robber had so planned his ambush that his 
prey should be well seen, distinct in the moonlight, so 
that his aim might be sure. Recovering himself, the 
horse, without needing the spur, as if he recognised the 
danger to his rider, started forward at full speed, and 
raced, regardless of ruts, along the track. Felix, who 
had hardly got into his seat again, could for awhile 
but barely restrain him, so wildly he fled. He must 
have been carried within a few yards of the bandit, but 
saw nothing, neither did a second bolt follow him ; the 
crossbow takes time to bend, and if the robber had com- 
panions they were differently armed. 

He was a furlong or more from the spot before he quite 
realised the danger he had escaped. His bow was un- 
strung in his hand, his arrows were all in the quiver; thus> 
had the bolt struck him, even if the wound had not been 
mortal (as it most likely would have been) he could have 



NIGHT IN THE FOREST 165 

made no resistance. How foolish to disregard the 
warnings of the grooms at the castle ! It was now too 
late; all he could do was to ride. Dreading every 
moment to be thrown, he pushed on as fast as the horse 
would go. There was no pursuit, and after a mile or so, 
as he left the firs and entered the ash woods, he slackened 
somewhat. It was, indeed, necessary, for here the hoofs 
of preceding horsemen had poached the turf (always damp 
under ash) into mud. It was less dark, for the boughs of 
the ashes did not meet above. 

As he passed, wood-pigeons rose with loud clatterings 
from their roosting-places, and once or twice he saw in 
the gloom the fiery, phosphoric eyeballs of the grey wood- 
cats. How gladly he recognised presently the change 
from trees to bushes, when he rode out from the thick 
ashes among the low hawthorns, and knew that he was 
within a mile or so of the South Barrier at home ! Already 
he heard the song of the nightingale, the long note which 
at night penetrates so far ; the nightingale, which loves the 
hawthorn and the neighbourhood of man. Imperceptibly 
he increased the speed again ; the horse, too, knew that he 
was nearing home, and responded willingly. 

The track was much broader and fairly good, but he 
knew that at one spot where it was marshy it must be cut 
up. There he went at the side, almost brushing a pro- 
jecting maple bush. Something struck the horse, he 
fancied the rebound of a bough ; he jumped, literally 
jumped, like a buck, and tore along the road. With one 
foot out of the stirrup, it was with the utmost difficulty 



i66 AFTER LONDON 

he stuck to his seat ; he was not riding, but holding on 
for a moment or two. Presently recovering from the 
jolt, he endeavoured to check him, but the bit was of no 
avail ; the animal was beside himself with terror, and 
raced headlong till they reached the barrier. It was, of 
course, closed, and the warder was asleep ; so that, until he 
dismounted, and kicked and shouted, no one challenged him. 

Then the warder, spear in hand, appeared with his 
lantern, but, recognising the voice, ran to the gate. 
Within the gate a few yards there were the embers of a 
fire, and round it a bivouac of footmen who had been to 
the feast, and had returned thus far before nightfall. 
Hearing the noise, some of them arose, and came round 
him, when one immediately exclaimed, and asked if he was 
wounded. Felix replied that he was not, but looking at 
his foot where the man pointed, saw that it was covered 
with blood. But, upon close examination, there was no 
cut or incision ; he was not hurt. The warder now called 
to them, and showed a long deep scratch on the near flank 
of the horse, from which the blood was dripping. 

It was such a scratch as might have been made with an 
iron nail, and, without hesitation, they all put it down to 
a Bushman's spud. Without doubt, the Bushman, hearing 
Felix approach, had hidden in the maple bush, and, as he 
passed, struck with his nail-like dagger ; but, miscalculat- 
ing the speed at which the horse was going, instead of 
piercing the thigh of the rider, the blow fell on the horse, 
and the sharp point was dragged along the side. The 
horse trembled as they touched him. 



NIGHT IN THE FOREST 167 

" Sir," said one of the retainers, their headman, " if you 
will pardon me, you liad best string your bow and send a 
shaft through his heart, for he will die in misery before 
morning." 

The Bushman's spud, the one he uses for assassination 
or to despatch his prey, is poisoned. It is a lingering 
poison, and takes several hours to produce its effect ; but 
no remedy is known, and many who have escaped from 
the cowardly blow have crawled to the path only to 
expire in torture. There was no denying that what the 
retainer proposed was the only thing that could be done. 
The warder had meantime brought a bucket of water, of 
which the poor creature drank eagerly. Felix could not 
do it ; he could not slay the creature which had carried 
him so long, and which twice that night had saved him, 
and was now to die, as it were, in his place. He could 
not consent to it ; he led the horse towards home, but he 
was weak or weary, and could not be got beyond the 
Pen. 

There the group assembled around him. Felix ordered 
the scratch to be cleansed, while he ran over in his mind 
every possible remedy. He gave strict orders that he 
should not be despatched, and then hastened to the house. 
He undid with trembling hands the thongs that bound his 
chest, and took out his manuscripts, hoping against hope 
that among the many notes he had made there might be 
something. But there was nothing, or in his excitement 
he overlooked it. Remembering that Oliver was a great 
authority upon horses, he went into his room and tried to 



i68 AFTER LONDON 

wake him. Oliver, weary with his ride, and not as yet 
having slept off the effects of the feast, could not be 
roused. 

Felix left him and hurried back to the Pen. Weary as 
he was, he watched by the horse till the larks began to sing 
and the dawn was at hand. As yet he had not shown any 
severe symptoms except twitching of the limbs, and a 
constant thirst, which water could not quench. But 
suddenly he fell, and the old retainer warned them all to 
stand away, for he would bite anything that was near. 
His words were instantly fulfilled ; the horse rolled, and 
kicked, and bit at everything within reach. Seeing this 
agony, Felix could no longer delay. He strung his bow, 
but he could not fit the arrow to the string ; he missed the 
notch, so much did his hands shake. He motioned to 
the retainers who had gathered around, and one of them 
thrust his spear into the horse behind his shoulder. 

When Felix at last returned to his chamber he could 
not but reflect, as the sun rose and the beams entered, that 
every omen had been against him : the adder under foot, 
the bandit's bolt, the Bushman's poisoned point. He slept 
till noon, and, upon going out, unrefreshed and still weary, 
he found that they had already buried the horse, and 
ordered a mound to be raised above his grave. The day 
passed slowly ; he wandered about the castle and the 
enclosed grounds, seeking comfort and finding none. His 
mind vacillated j he recalled all that Aurora had said, 
persuading him not to do anything in haste or despair. 
Yet he could not continue in his present condition. 



SAILING AWAY 169 

Another day went by, and still undecided and doubting, 
he remained at home. 

Oliver began to jest at him ; had he abandoned the 
expedition ? Oliver could not understand indecision ; 
perhaps he did not see so many sides to the question, his 
mind was always quickly made up. Action was his 
forte, not thought. The night came, and still Felix 
lingered, hesitating. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

SAILING AWAY. 

But the next morning Felix arose straight from his sleep 
resolved to carry out his plan. Without staying to think 
a moment, without further examination of the various 
sides of the problem, he started up the instant his eyes 
unclosed, fully determined upon his voyage. The breath of 
the bright June morn as he threw open the window-shutter 
filled him with hope ; his heart responded to its joyous 
influence. The excitement which had disturbed his mind 
had had time to subside. In the still slumber of the night 
the strong undercurrent of his thought resumed its course, 
and he awoke with his will firmly bent in one direction. 

When he had dressed, he took his bow and the chest 
bound with leathern thongs, and went down. It was 
early, but the Baron had already finished breakfast and 
gone out to his gardens ; the Baroness had not yet 
appeared. While he was making a hurried breakfast (for 



I70 AFTER LONDON 

having now made up his mind he was eager to put his 
resolve into execution), Oliver came in, and seeing the 
chest and bow, understood that the hour had arrived. He 
immediately said he should accompany him to Heron Bay, 
and assist him to start, and went out to order their horses. 
There were always plenty of riding horses at Old House 
(as at every fortified mansion), and there was not the 
least difficulty in getting another for Felix in place of his 
favourite. 

Oliver insisted upon taking the wooden chest, which 
was rather heavy, before him on the saddle, so that Felix 
had nothing to carry but his favourite bow. Oliver was 
surprised that Felix did not first go to the gardens and say 
good-bye to the Baron, or at least knock at the Baroness's 
door and bid her farewell. But he made no remark, know- 
ing Felix's proud and occasionally hard temper. Without 
a word Felix left the old place. 

He rode forth from the North Barrier, and did not 
even so much as look behind him. Neither he nor Oliver 
thought of the events that might happen before they 
siiould again meet in the old familiar house ! When the 
circle is once broken up it is often years before it is 
reformed. Often, indeed, the members of it never meet 
again, at least, not in the same manner, which, perhaps, 
they detested then, and ever afterwards regretted. With- 
out one word of farewell, without a glance, Felix rode out 
into the forest. 

There was not much conversation on the trail to Heron 
Bay. The serfs were still there in charge of the canoe. 



SAILING AWAY 



171 



and were glad enough to see their approach, and thus to 
be relieved from their lonely watch. They launched the 
canoe with ease, the provisions were put on board, the 
chest lashed to the mast that it might not be lost, the 
favourite bow was also fastened upright to the mast for 
safety, and simply shaking hands with Oliver, Felix pushed 
out into the creek. He paddled the canoe to the entrance 
and out into the Lake till he arrived where the south-west 
breeze, coming over the forest, touched and rippled the 
water, which by the shore was perfectly calm. 

Then, hoisting the sail, he put out the larger paddle 
which answered as a rudder, took his seat, and, waving his 
hand to Oliver, began his voyage. The wind was but 
light, and almost too favourable, for he had determined to 
sail to the eastward ; not for any specific reason, but because 
there the sun rose, and that was the quarter of light and hope. 
His canoe, with a long fore-and-aft sail, and so well adapted 
for working into the wind, was not well rigged for drifting 
before a breeze, which was what he was now doing. He 
had merely to keep the canoe before the wind, steering so 
as to clear the bold headland of White Horse, which rose 
blue from the water's edge far in front of him. Though 
the wind was light, the canoe, being so taper and sharp at 
the prow, and the sail so large in comparison, slipped from 
the shore faster than he at first imagined. 

As he steered aslant from the little bay outwards into 
the great Lake, the ripples rolling before the wind gradually 
enlarged into wavelets, these again increased, and in half an 
hour, as the wind now played upon them over a mile of sur- 



172 AFTER LONDON 

face, they seemed in his canoe, with its low freeboard, to 
be considerable waves. He had purposely refrained from 
looking back till now, lest they should think he regretted 
leaving, and in his heart desired to return. But now, 
feeling that he had really started, he glanced behind. He 
could see no one. 

He had forgotten that the spot where they had launched 
the canoe was at the end of an inlet, and as he sailed 
away the creek was shut off from view by the shore of the 
Lake. Unable to get to the mouth of the bay because 
of the underwood and the swampy soil, Oliver had remained 
gazing in the direction the canoe had taken for a minute 
or two, absorbed in thought (almost the longest period 
he had ever wasted in such an occupation), and then with 
a whistle turned to go. The serfs, understanding that they 
were no longer required, gathered their things together, 
and were shortly on their way home. Oliver, holding 
Felix's horse by the bridle, had already ridden that way, 
but he presently halted, and waited till the three men 
overtook him. He then gave the horse into their charge, 
and turning to the right, along a forest path which 
branched off there, went to Ponze. Felix could therefore 
see no one when he looked back, and they were indeed 
already on their way from the place. 

He now felt that he was alone. He had parted from 
the shore, and from all the old associations ; he was fast pass- 
ing not only out upon the water, but out into the unknown 
future. But his spirit no longer vacillated ; now that he 
was really in the beginning of his long contemplated 



SAILING AWAY 173 

enterprise his natural strength of mind returned. The 
weakness and irresolution, the hesitation, left him. He 
became full of his adventure, and thought of nothing 
else. 

The south-west breeze, blowing as a. man breathes, with 
alternate rise and fall, now driving him along rapidly till 
the water bubbled under the prow, now sinking, came 
over his right shoulder and cooled his cheek, for it was 
now noon, and the June sun was unchecked by clouds. 
He could no longer distinguish the shape of the trees on 
shore ; all the boughs were blended together in one great 
wood, stretching as far as he could see. On his left there 
was a chain of islands, some covered with firs, and others 
only with brushwood, while others again were so low and 
flat that the waves in stormy weather broke almost over 
them. 

As he drew near White Horse, five white terns, or sea- 
swallows, flew over ; he did not welcome their appearance, 
as they usually preceded rough gales. The headland, 
wooded to its ridge, now rose high against the sky ; ash 
and nut-tree and hawthorn had concealed the ancient 
graven figure of the horse upon its side, but the tradition 
was not forgotten, and the site retained its name. He had 
been steering so as just to clear the promontory, but he 
now remembered that when he had visited the summit of 
the hill, he had observed that banks and shoals extended 
far out from the shore, and were nearly on a level with 
the surface of the Lake. In a calm they were visible, but 
waves concealed them, and unless the helmsman recognised 



174 AFTER LONDON 

the swirl sufficiently early to change his course, they were 
extremely dangerous. 

Felix bore more out from the land, and passing fully a 
mile to the north, left the shoals on his right. On his 
other hand there was a sandy and barren island barely a 
quarter of a mile distant, upon which he thought he saw 
the timbers of a wreck. It was quite probable, for the 
island lay in the track of vessels coasting along the shore. 
Beyond White Horse, the land fell away in a series of 
indentations, curving inwards to the south ; an inhospitable 
coast, for the hills came down to the strand, ending 
abruptly in low, but steep, chalk cliflFs. Many islands of 
large size stood out on the left, but Felix, not knowing the 
shape of the Lake beyond White Horse, thought it best 
to follow the trend of the land. He thus found, after 
about three hours, that he had gone far out of his course, 
for the gulf-like curve of the coast now began to return 
to the northward, and looking in that direction he saw 
a merchant vessel under her one square sail of great size, 
standing across the bay. 

She was about five miles distant, and was evidently 
steering so as to keep just inside the line of the islands. 
Felix, with some difficulty, steered in a direction to 
interrupt her. The south-west wind being then imme- 
diately aft, his sail did not answer well ; presently he 
lowered it, and paddled till he had turned the course so 
that the outrigger was now on the eastern side. Then 
hoisting the sail again, he sat at what had before been the 
prow, and steered a point or so nearer the wind. This 



SAILING AWAY 175 

improved her sailing, but as the merchant ship had at 
least five miles start, it would take some hours to overtake 
her. Nor on reflection was he at all anxious to come 
up with her, for mariners were dreaded for their lawless 
conduct, being, when on a voyage, beyond all juris- 
diction. 

On the one hand, if they saw an opportunity, they did 
not hesitate to land and pillage a house, or even a hamlet. 
On the other, those who dwelt anywhere near the shore 
considered it good sport to light a fire and lure a vessel to 
her destruction, or if she was becalmed to sally out in 
boats, attack, and perhaps destroy both ship and crew. 
Hence the many wrecks, and losses, and the risks of 
navigation, not so much from natural obstacles, since the 
innumerable islands, and the creeks and inlets of the main- 
land, almost always offered shelter, no matter which way 
the storm blew, but from the animosity of the coast people. 
If there was an important harbour and a town where 
provisions could be obtained, or repairs effected, the right 
of entrance was jealously guarded, and no ship, however 
pressed by the gale, was permitted to leave, if she had 
anchored, without payment of a fine. So that vessels as 
much as possible avoided the harbours and towns, and the 
mainland altogether, sailing along beside the islands, which 
were, for the most part, uninhabited, and anchoring under 
their lee at night. 

Felix, remembering the character of the mariners, 
resolved to keep well away from them, but to watch their 
course as a guide to himself. The mainland now ran 



176 AFTER LONDON 

abruptly to the north, and the canoe, as he brought her 
more into the wind, sprang forward at a rapid pace. The 
outrigger prevented her from making any leeway, or heel- 
ing over, and the large spread of sail forced her swiftly 
through the water. He had lost sight of the ship behind 
some islands, and as he approached these, began to ask him- 
self if he had not better haul down his sail there, as he must 
now be getting near her, when to his surprise, on coming 
close, he saw her great square sail in the middle, as it 
seemed, of the land. The shore there was flat, the hills 
which had hitherto bounded it suddenly ceasing ; it was 
overgrown with reeds and flags, and about two miles away 
the dark sail of the merchantman drifted over these, the 
hull being hidden. He at once knew that he had reached 
the western mouth of the straits which divide the southern 
and northern mainland. When he went to see the 
channel on foot through the forest, he must have struck 
it a mile or two more to the east, where it wound under 
the hills. 

In another half hour he arrived at the opening of the 
strait ; it was about a mile wide, and either shore was 
quite flat, that on the right for a short distance, the range 
of downs approaching within two miles ; that on the left, 
or north, was level as far as he could see. He had now 
again to lower his sail, to get the outrigger on his lee as he 
turned to the right and steered due east into the channel. 
So long as the shore was level, he had no difficulty, for the 
wind drew over it, but when the hills gradually came near 
and almost overhung the channel, they shut off much of 



SAILING AWAY 177 

the breeze, and his progress was slow. When it turned 
and ran narrowing every moment to the south, the wind 
foiled him altogether. 

On the right shore wooded hills rose from the water 
like a wall ; on the left, it was a perfect plain. He could 
see nothing of the merchantman, although he knew that 
she could not sail here, but must be working through with 
her sweeps. Her heavy hull and bluff bow must make the 
rowing a slow and laborious process ; therefore she could 
not be far ahead, but was concealed by the winding of the 
strait. He lowered the sail, as it was now useless, and 
began to paddle ; in a very short time he found the heat 
under the hills oppressive when thus working. He had 
now been afloat between six and seven hours, and must 
have come fully thirty miles, perhaps rather more than 
twenty in a straight line, and he felt somewhat weary and 
cramped from sitting so long in the canoe. 

Though he paddled hard he did not seem to make 
much progress, and at length he recognised that there was 
a. distinct current, which opposed his advance, flowing 
through the channel from east to west. If he ceased 
paddling, he found he drifted slowly back ; the long 
aquatic weeds, too, which he passed, all extended their 
floating streamers westward. We did not know of this 
current till Felix Aquila observed and recorded it. 

Tired and hungry (for, full of his voyage, he had taken 
no refreshment since he started), he resolved to land, rest 
a little while, and then ascend the hill, and see what he 
could of the channel. He soon reached the shore, the 

12 



178 AFTER LONDON 

strait having narrowed to less than a mile in width, and 
ran the canoe on the ground by a bush, to which, on 
getting out, he attached the painter. The relief of stretch- 
ing his limbs was so great that it seemed to endow him 
with fresh strength, and without waiting to eat, he at 
once climbed the hill. From the top, the remainder of 
the strait could be easily distinguished. But a short 
distance from where he stood it bent again, and proceeded 
due east. 

CHAPTER XIV. 

THE STRAITS. 

The passage contracted there to little over half a mile, but 
these narrows did not continue far ; the shores, having 
approached thus near each other, quickly receded, till 
presently they were at least two miles apart. The 
merchant vessel had passed the narrows with the aid of 
her sweeps, but she moved slowly, and, as it seemed to 
him, with difficulty. She was about a mile and a half 
distant, and near the eastern mouth of the strait. As Felix 
watched he saw her square sail again raised, showing that 
she had reached a spot where the hills ceased to shut 
oflf the wind. Entering the open Lake, she altered her 
course and sailed away to the north-north-east, following 
the course of the northern mainland. 

Looking now eastwards, across the Lake, he saw a vast 
and beautiful expanse of water, without island or break 
of any kind, reaching to the horizon. Northwards and 



THE STRAITS 179 

southwards the land fell rapidly away, skirted as usual 
with islets and shoals, between which and the shore vessels 
usually voyaged. He had heard of this open water, and 
it was his intention to sail out into and explore it, but as 
the sun now began to decline towards the west, he con- 
sidered that he had better wait till morning, and so have 
a whole day before him. Meantime, he would paddle 
through the channel, beach the canoe on the islet that 
stood farthest out, and so start clear on the morrow. 

Turning now to look back the other way, westward, 
he was surprised to see a second channel, which came 
almost to the foot of the hill on which he stood, but 
there ended, and did not connect with the first. The 
entrance to it was concealed, as he now saw, by an island, 
past which he must have sailed that afternoon. This 
second or blind channel seemed more familiar to him than 
the flat and reedy shore at the mouth of the true strait, 
and he now recognised it as the one to which he had 
journeyed on foot through the forest. He had not then 
struck the true strait at all ; he had sat down and pondered 
beside this deceptive inlet, thinking that it divided the 
mainlands. From this discovery he saw how easy it was 
to be misled in such matters. 

But it even more fully convinced him of the importance 
of this uninhabited and neglected place. It seemed like a 
canal cut on purpose to supply a fort from the Lake in the 
rear with provisions and material, supposing access in front 
prevented by hostile fleets and armies. A castle, if built 
near where he stood, would command the channel ; arrows, 

12 — 2 



i8o AFTER LONDON 

indeed, could not be shot across, but vessels under the 
protection of the castle could dispute the passage, obstructed 
as it could be with floating booms. An invader coming 
from the north must cross here ; for many years past there 
had been a general feeling that some day such an attempt 
would be made. Fortifications would be of incalculable 
value in repelling the hostile hordes and preventing their 
landing. 

Who held this strait would possess the key of the Lake, 
and would be the master of, or would at least hold the 
balance between, the kings and republics dotted along the 
coasts on either hand. No vessel could pass without his 
permission. It was the most patent illustration of the 
extremely local horizon, the contracted mental view of 
the petty kings and their statesmen, who were so con- 
cerned about the frontiers of their provinces, and frequently 
interfered and fought for a single palisaded estate or barony, 
yet were quite oblivious of the opportunity of empire open 
here to any who could seize it. 

If the governor of such a castle as he imagined built 
upon the strait, had also vessels of war, they could lie in 
this second channel sheltered from all winds, and ready to 
sally forth and take an attacking force upon the flank. 
While he pondered upon these advantages he could not 
conceal from himself that he had once sat down and 
dreamed beside this second inlet, thinking it to be the 
channel. The doubt arose whether, if he was so easily 
misled in such a large, tangible, and purely physical 
matter, he might not be deceived also in his ideas; 



THE STRAITS i8i 

whether, if tested, they might not fail ; whether the world 
was not right and he wrong. 

The very clearness and many-sided character of his 
mind often hindered and even checked altogether the best 
founded of his impressions, the more especially when he, 
as it were, stood still and thought. In reverie, the subtlety 
of his mind entangled him ; in action, he was almost 
always right. Action prompted his decision. Descending 
from the hill he now took some refreshment, and then 
pushed out again in the canoe. So powerful was the 
current in the narrowest part of the strait that it occupied 
him two hours in paddling as many miles. 

When he was free of the channel, he hoisted sail and 
directed his course straight out for an island which stood 
almost opposite the entrance. But as he approached, 
driven along at a good pace, suddenly the canoe seemed 
to be seized from beneath. He knew in a moment that 
he had grounded on soft mud, and sprang up to lower the 
sail, but before he could do so the canoe came to a stand- 
still on the mud-bank, and the waves following behind, 
directly she stopped, broke over the stern. Fortunately 
they were but small, having only a mile or so to roll from 
the shore, but they flung enough water on board in a few 
minutes to spoil part of his provisions, and to set every- 
thing afloat that was loose on the bottom of the vessel. 

He was apprehensive lest she should fill, for he now 
perceived that he had forgotten to provide anything with 
which to bale her out. Something is always forgotten. 
Having got the sail down (lest the wind should snap the 



i82 AFTER LONDON 

mast), he tried hard to force the canoe back with his 
longer paddle, used as a movable rudder. His weight and 
the resistance of the adhesive mud, on which she had 
driven with much force, were too great ; he could not 
shove her off. When he pushed, the paddle sank into the 
soft bottom, and gave him nothing to press against. After 
struggling for some time he paused, beginning to fear that 
his voyage had already reached an end. 

A minute's thought, more potent than the strength of 
ten men, showed him that the canoe required lightening. 
There was no cargo to throw overboard, nor ballast. He 
was the only weight. He immediately undressed, and let 
himself overboard at the prow, retaining hold of the stem. 
His feet sank deep into the ooze ; he felt as if, had he let 
go, he should have gradually gone down into this quick- 
sand of fine mud. By rapidly moving his feet he managed, 
however, to push the canoe ; she rose considerably so soon 
as he was out of her, and, although he had hold of the 
prow, still his body was lighter in the water. Pushing, 
struggling, and pressing forward, he, by sheer impact, as it 
were, for his feet found no hold in the mud, forced her 
back by slow degrees. 

The blows of the waves drove her forward almost as 
much as he pushed her back. Still, in time, and when 
his strength was fast decreasing, she did move, and he had 
the satisfaction of feeling the water deeper beneath him. 
But when he endeavoured to pull himself into the canoe 
over the prow, directly his motive power ceased, the waves 
undid the advance he had achieved, and he had to resume 



THE STRAITS 183 

his labour. This time, thinking again, before he attempted 
to get into the canoe he turned her sideways to the wind, 
with the outrigger to leeward. When her sharp prow 
and rounded keel struck the mud-bank end on she ran 
easily along it. But, turned sideways, her length found 
more resistance, and though the waves sent her some way 
upon it, she soon came to a standstill. He clambered in 
as quickly as he could (it is not easy to get into a boat out 
of the water, the body feels so heavy), and, taking the 
paddle, without waiting to dress, worked away from the 
spot. 

Not till he had got some quarter of a mile back towards 
the mainland did he pause to dry himself and resume part 
of his clothing ; the canoe being still partly full of water, 
it was no use to put on all. Resting awhile after his 
severe exertions, he looked back, and now supposed, from 
the colour of the water and general indications, that these 
shallows extended a long distance, surrounding the islands 
at the mouth of the channel, so that no vessel could enter 
or pass out in a direct line, but must steer to the north or 
south until the obstacle was rounded. Afraid to attempt 
to land on another island, his only course, as the sun was 
now going down, was to return to the mainland, which he 
reached without much trouble, as the current favoured 
him. 

He drew the canoe upon the ground as far as he could. 
It was not a good place to land, as the bottom was chalk, 
washed into holes by the waves, and studded with' 
angular flints. As the wind was ofF the shore it did not 



i84 AFTER LONDON 

matter; if it had blown from the east, his canoe miglit 
very likely have been much damaged. The shore was 
overgrown with hazel to within twenty yards of the 
water, then the ground rose and was clothed with low ash- 
trees, whose boughs seemed much stunted by tempest,, 
showing how exposed the spot was to the easterly gales of 
spring. The south-west wind was shut off by the hills, 
behind. Felix was so weary that for some time he did 
nothing save rest upon the ground, which was but 
scantily covered with grass. An hour's rest, however^ 
restored him to himself. 

He gathered some dry sticks (there were plenty under 
the ashes), struck his flint against the steel, ignited the 
tinder, and soon had a fire. It was not necessary for 
warmth, the June evening was soft and warm, but it was 
the hunter's instinct. Upon camping for the night the 
hunter, unless Bushmen are suspected to be in the neigh- 
bourhood, invariably lights a fire, first to cook his supper, 
and secondly, and often principally, to make the spot his 
home. The hearth is home, whether there be walls 
round it or not. Directly there are glowing embers the 
place is no longer wild, it becomes human. Felix had 
nothing that needed cooking. He took his cowhide from 
the canoe and spread it on the ground. 

A well-seasoned cowhide is the first possession of every 
hunter ; it keeps him from the damp ; and with a second, 
supported on three short poles stuck in the earth (two 
crossed at the top in front, forming a fork, and fastened 
with a thong, the third resting on these), he protects him- 



THE STRAITS 185 

self from the heaviest rain. This little tent is always 
built with the back to windward. Felix did not erect a 
second hide, the evening was so warm and beautiful he 
did not need it, his cloak would be ample for covering. 
The fire crackled and blazed at intervals, just far enough 
from him that he might feel no inconvenience from its 
heat. 

Thrushes sang in the ash wood all around him, the 
cuckoo called, and the chiff-chafF never ceased for a 
moment. Before him stretched the expanse of waters ; 
he could even here see over the low islands. In the sky a 
streak of cloud was tinted by the sunset, slowly becoming 
paler as the light departed. He reclined in that idle, 
thoughtless state which succeeds unusual effort, till the 
deepening shadow and the sinking fire, and the appearance 
of a star, warned him that the night was really here. 
Then he arose, threw on more fuel, and fetched his cloak, 
his chest, and his boar spear from the canoe. The chest 
he covered with a corner of the hide, wrapped himself in 
the cloak, bringing it well over his face on account of the 
dew ; then, drawing the lower corners of the hide over 
his feet and limbs, he stretched himself at full length and 
fell asleep, with the spear beside him. 

There was the possibility of Bushmen, but not much 
probability. There would be far more danger near the 
forest path, where they might expect a traveller and watch 
to waylay him, but they could not tell beforehand where 
he would rest that night. If any had seen the movements 
of his canoe, if any lighted upon his bivouac by chance, 



i86 AFTER LONDON 

his fate was certain. He knew this, but trusted to the 
extreme improbability of Bushmen frequenting a place 
where there was nothing to plunder. Besides, he had no 
choice, as he could not reach the islands. If there was 
risk, it was forgotten in the extremity of his weariness. 



CHAPTER XV. 

SAILING ONWARDS. 

When Felix awoke, he knew at once by the height of the 
sun that the morning was far advanced. Throwing ofiF 
the cloak, he stood up, but immediately crouched again, 
for a vessel was passing but a short distance from the shore, 
and nearly opposite his encampment. She had two masts, 
and from the flags flying, the numerous bannerets, and the 
movements of so many men on board, he knew her to be 
a ship of war. He was anxious that he should not be 
seen, and regretted that his canoe was so much exposed, 
for the bush by which he had landed hid it only from one 
side. As the shore was so bare and open, if they looked 
that way the men on board could hardly fail to see it, and 
might even distinguish him. But whether they were too 
much engaged with their own affairs, or kept a careless 
look-out, no notice appeared to be taken, no boat was 
lowered. 

He watched the war-ship for nearly an hour before he 
ventured to move. Her course was to the eastward, inside 
the fringe of islands. That she was neither Irish nor 



SAILING ONWARDS 187 

Welsh he was certain from her build and from her flags ; 
they were too distant for the exact designs upon them to 
be seen, but near enough for him to know that they were 
not those displayed by the foreigners. She sailed fast, 
having the wind nearly aft, which suited her two square 
^ails. 

The wind had risen high during the night, and now 
blew almost a gale, so that he saw he must abandon for 
the present his project of sailing out upon the open water. 
The waves there would be too high for his canoe, which 
floated low in the water, and had but about six inches 
freeboard. They would wash over and possibly swamp 
her. Only two courses were open to him : either to sail 
inside the islands under shelter of the land, or to remain 
where he was till the breeze m.oderated. If he sailed 
inside the islands, following the northward course of the 
merchant vessel he had observed the previous evening, 
that would carry him past Eaststock, the eastern port of 
Sypolis, which city, itself inland, had two harbours, with 
the western of which (Weststock) it had communication 
by water. 

Should he continue to sail on, he would soon reach that 
part of the northern continent which was occupied by the 
Irish outposts. On the other hand, to follow the war- 
ship, east by south, would, he knew, bring him by the 
great city of Aisi, famous for its commerce, its riches, and 
the warlike disposition of its king, Isembard. He was the 
acknowledged head of the forces of the League ; but yet, 
with the inconsistency of the age, sometimes attacked 



i88 AFTER LONDON 

other members of it. His furious energy was always dis- 
turbing the world, and Felix had no doubt he was now at 
war with someone or other, and that the war-ship he had 
seen was on its way to assist him or his enemies. One of 
the possibilities which had impelled him to this voyage 
was that of taking service with some king or commander, 
and so perhaps gradually rising himself to command. 

Such adventures were very common, knights often 
setting forth upon such expeditions when dissatisfied with 
their own rulers, and they were usually much welcomed 
as an addition to the strength of the camp they sought. 
But there was this difference : that such knights carried 
with them some substantial recommendation, either 
numerous retainers well armed and accustomed to battle, 
considerable treasure, or at least a reputation for prowess 
in the field. Felix had nothing to offer, and for nothing 
nothing is given. 

The world does not recognise intrinsic worth or 
potential genius. Genius must accomplish some solid 
result before it is applauded and received. The unknown 
architect may say : " I have a design in my mind for an 
impregnable castle." But the world cannot see or appre- 
ciate the mere design. If by any personal sacrifice of 
time, dignity, or self-respect the architect, after long years, 
can persuade someone to permit him to build the castle, 
to put his design into solid stone which squadrons may 
knock their heads against in vain, then he is acknowledged. 
There is then a tangible result. 

Felix was in the position of the architect. He believed 



SAILING ONWARDS 189 

he had ideas, but he had nothing substantial, no result, to 
point to. He had therefore but little hope of success, and 
his natural hauteur and pride revolted against making ap- 
plication for enrolment which must be accompanied with 
much personal humiliation, since at best he could but 
begin in the common ranks. The very idea of asking 
was repugnant to him. The thought of Aurora, how- 
ever, drew him on. 

The pride was false, he said to himself, and arose from 
too high an estimate of his abilities ; or it was the con- 
sequence of living so long entirely secluded from the 
world. He acknowledged to himself that he had not 
been beaten down to his level. Full of devotion to 
Aurora, he resolved to humble himself, to seek the 
humblest service in King Isembard's camp, to bow his 
spirit to the orders of men above him in rank but below 
him in birth and ability, to submit to the numberless indig- 
nities of a common soldier's life. 

He proceeded to launch the canoe, and had already 
placed the chest on board when it occurred to him that tlie 
difficulties he had encountered the previous evening, when 
his canoe was so nearly lost, arose from his ignorance of 
the channels. It would be advisable to ascend the hill, 
and carefully survey the coast as far as possible before 
setting forth. He did so. The war-ship was still visible 
from the summit, but while he looked she was hidden by 
the intervening islands. The white foam and angry 
appearance of the distant open water direct to the east- 
ward showed how wise he had been not to attempt its 



igo AFTER LONDON 

exploration. Under the land the wind was steady ; 
yonder, where the gale struck the surface with all its 
force, the waves were large and powerful. 

From this spot he could see nearly the whole length of 
the strait, and gazing up in the direction he had come, 
he saw some boats crossing in the distance. As they 
moved so slowly, and appeared so broad, he conjectured 
that they were flat-bottomed punts, and, straining his eyes, 
he fancied he detected horses on board. He watched 
four cross, and presently the first punt returned, as if for 
another freight. He now noticed that there was a land 
route by which travellers or waggons came down from the 
northward, and crossed the strait by a ferry. It appeared 
that the ferry was not at the narrowest part of the strait, 
but nearer its western mouth, where the shores were flat, 
and covered with reeds and flags. He wondered that he 
had not seen anything of the landing-places, or of the 
ferry-boats, or some sign of this traffic when he passed, but 
concluded that the track was hidden among the dense 
growth of reed and flag, and that the punts, not being in 
use that day, had been drawn up, and perhaps covered 
with green boughs to shelter them from the heat of the 
summer sun. 

The fact of this route existing, however, gave additional 
importance to the establishment of a fort on the shore of 
the strait, as he had so long contemplated. By now, the 
first punt had obtained another load, and was re-crossing 
the channel. It was evident that a caravan of travellers 
or merchants had arrived, such persons usually travelling 



SAILING ONWARDS igr 

in large bodies for safety, so that the routes were often 
deserted for weeks together, and then suddenly covered 
with people. Routes, indeed, they were, and not roads ; 
mere tracks worn through the forest and over the hills, 
joften impassable from floods. 

Still further satisfied that his original idea of a castle 
here was founded on a correct estimate of the value of the 
spot, Felix resolved to keep the conception to himself, and 
not again to hazard it to others, who might despise him, 
but adopt his design. With one long last glance at the 
narrow streak of water which formed the central part, as 
it were, of his many plans, he descended the hill, and 
pushed off in the canoe. 

His course this time gave him much less trouble than 
the day before, when he had frequently to change his 
tack. The steady, strong breeze came off the land, 
to which he was too close for any waves to arise, and 
hour after hour passed without any necessity to shift the 
sail, further than to ease or tighten the sheets as the 
course of the land varied. By degrees the wind came 
more and more across his course, at right angles to it, and 
then began to fall aft as he described an arc, and the land 
projected northwards. 

He saw several small villages on the shore, and passed 
one narrow bay, which seemed, indeed, to penetrate into 
the land deeper than he could actually see. Suddenly, after 
four or five hours' sailing, he saw the tower of a church 
over the wooded hills. This he knew must indicate the 
position of Aisi. The question now came, whether he 



iga AFTER LONDON 

should sail into the harbour, when he would, of course, at 
once be seen, and have to undergo the examination of the 
officers; or should he land, and go on foot to the city ? 
A minute's reflection assured him the latter was the better 
plan, for his canoe was of so unusual a construction, that it 
would be more than carefully examined, and not unlikely 
his little treasures would be discovered and appropriated. 
Without hesitation, therefore, and congratulating himself 
that there were no vessels in sight, he ran the canoe on 
shore among the flags and reeds which bordered it. 

He drew her up as far as his strength permitted, and 
not only took down the sail, but unshipped the mast; 
then cutting a quantity of dead reeds, he scattered them 
•over her, so that, unless a boat passed very close to the 
land, she would not be seen. While he had a meal he 
considered how he had better proceed. The only arms 
with which he excelled were the bow and arrow ; clearly, 
therefore, if he wished an engagement, he should take 
these with him, and exhibit his skill. But well he knew 
the utter absence of law and justice except for the power- 
ful. His bow, which he so greatly valued, and which 
was so well seasoned, and could be relied upon, might be 
taken from him. 

His arrows, so carefully prepared from chosen wood, 
and pointed with steel, might be seized. Both bow and 
arrows were far superior to those used by the hunters and 
soldiery, and he dreaded losing them. There was his 
crossbow, but it was weak, and intended for killing only 
small game, as birds, and at short range. He could make 



SAILING ONWARDS 193 

no display with that. Sword he had none for defence; 
there remained only his boar spear, and with this he 
resolved to be content, trusting to obtain the loan of a 
bow when the time came to display his skill, and that 
fortune would enable him to triumph with an inferior 
weapon. 

After resting awhile and stretching his limbs, cramped 
in the canoe, he set out (carrying his boar-spear only) 
along the shore, for the thick growth of firs would not let 
him penetrate in the direction he had seen the tower. 
He had to force his way through the reeds and flags and 
brushwood, which flourished between the firs and the 
water's edge. It was hard work walking, or rather 
pushing through these obstacles, and he rejoiced when he 
emerged upon the slope of a down where there was an 
open sward, and but a few scattered groups of firs. The 
fact of it being open, and the shortness of the sward, 
showed at once that it was used for grazing purposes for 
cattle and sheep. Here he could walk freely, and soon 
reached the top. Thence the city was visible almost 
underneath him. 

It stood at the base of a low, narrow promontor}'^ 
which ran a long way into the Lake. The narrow 
bank, near where it joined the mainland, was penetrated 
by a channel or creek, about a hundred yards wide, or 
less, which channel appeared to enter the land and was 
lost sight of among the trees. Beyond this channel a 
river ran into the lake, and in the Y, between the creek 
and the river, the city had been built. 

13 



194 AFTER LONDON 

It was surrounded with a brick wall, and there were 
two large round brick towers on the land side, which 
indicated the position of the castle and palace. The 
space enclosed by the walls was not more than half a 
mile square, and the houses did not occupy nearly all of 
it. There were open places, gardens, and even small 
paddocks among them. None of the houses were more 
than two storeys high, but what at once struck a stranger 
was the fact that they were all roofed with red tiles, most 
of the houses of that day being thatched or covered with 
shingles of wood. As Felix afterwards learnt, this had 
been effected during the reign of the present king, whose 
object was to protect his city from being set on fire by 
burning arrows. The encircling wall had become a dull 
red hue from long exposure to the weather, but the roofs 
were a brighter red. There was no ensign flying on 
either of the towers, from which he concluded that the 
king at that moment was absent. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

THE CITY. 

Slowly descending towards the city, Felix looked in vain 
for any means of crossing the channel or creek, which 
extended upon this side of it, and in which he counted 
twenty-two merchant vessels at anchor, or moored to the 
bank, besides a number of smaller craft and boats. The 
ship of war, which had arrived before him, was beached 



THE CITY 195 

close up by a gate of the city, which opened on the creek 
or port, and her crew were busily engaged discharging 
her stores. As he walked beside the creek trying to call 
the attention of some boatman to take him across, he was 
impressed by the silence, for though the city wall was 
not much more than a stone's-throw distant, there was 
none of the usual hum which arises from the movements 
of people. On looking closer he noticed, too, that there 
were few persons on the merchant vessels, and not one 
gang at work loading or unloading. Except the warder 
stalking to and fro on the wall, and the crew of the war- 
ship, there was no one visible. As the warder paced to 
and fro the blade of his partisan gleamed in the sunshine. 
He must have seen Felix, but with military indifference 
did not pay the slightest heed to the latter's efforts to 
attract his attention. 

He now passed the war-ship, and shouted to the men 
at work, who were, he could see, carrying sheaves of 
arrows and bundles of javelins from the vessel and placing 
them on carts ; but they did not trouble to reply. His 
common dress and ordinary appearance did not inspire 
them with any hope of payment from him if they obliged 
him with a boat. The utter indifference with which his 
approach was seen showed him the contempt in which 
he was held. 

Looking round to see if there were no bridge or ferry, 
he caught sight of the grey church tower which he had 
observed from afar while sailing. It was quite a mile 
from the city, and isolated outside the walls. It stood on 

13 — 2 



196 AFTER LONDON 

the slope of the hill, over whose summit the tower was 
visible. He wandered up towards it, as there were 
usually people in or about the churches, which were 
always open day and night. If no one else, the porter in 
the lodge at the church door would be there, for he or 
his representative never left it, being always on the watch 
lest some thief should attempt to enter the treasury, or 
steal the sacred vessels. 

But as he ascended the hill he met a shepherd, whose 
dogs prepared to fly at him, recognising a stranger. For a 
moment the man seemed inclined to let them wreak theii 
will, if they could, for he also felt inclined to challenge a 
stranger, but, seeing Felix lower his spear, it probably 
occurred to him that some of his dogs would be killed. 
He therefore ordered them down, and stayed to listen. 
Felix learnt that there was no bridge across the creek, and 
only one over the river ; but there was a ferry for anybody 
who was known. No strangers were allowed to cross 
the ferry ; they must enter by the main road over the 
bridge. 

" But how am I to get into the place, then ?" said 
Felix. The shepherd shook his head, said he could not 
tell him, and walked away about his business. 

Discouraged at these trifling vexations, which seemed to 
cross his path at every step, Felix found his way to the 
ferry, but, as the shepherd had said, the boatman refused 
to carry him, being a stranger. No persuasion could 
move him ; nor the offer of a small silver coin, worth about 
ten times his fare. 



THE CITY 197 

"I must then swim across," said Felix, preparing to 
take ofF his clothes. 

" Swim, if you like," said the boatman, with a grim 
smile ; " but you will never land." 

"Why not?" 

" Because the warder will let drive at you with an 
arrow." 

Felix looked, and saw that he was opposite the extreme 
angle of the city wall, a point usually guarded with care. 
There was a warder stalking to and fro ; he carried a 
partisan, but, of course, might have his bow within reach, 
or could probably call to the soldiers of the guard. 

"This is annoying," said Felix, ready to give up his 
enterprise. " How ever can I get into the city ?" 

The old boatman grinned, but said nothing, and 
returned to a net which he was mending. He made no 
answer to the further questions Felix put to him. Felix 
then shouted to the warder ; the soldier looked once, but 
paid no more heed. Felix walked a little way and sat 
down on the grass. He was deeply discouraged. These 
repulses, trifles in themselves, assumed an importance, 
because his mind had long been strung up to a high pitch 
■of tension. A stolid man would have thought nothing of 
them. After a while he arose, again asking himself how 
should he become a leader, who had not the perseverance 
to enter a city in peaceful guise ? 

Not knowing what else to do, he followed the creek 
round the foot of the hill, and so onwards for a mile or 
more. This bank was steep, on account of the down ; 



igS AFTER LONDON 

the other cultivated, the corn being already high. The 
cuckoo sang (she loves the near neighbourhood of man) 
and flew over the channel towards a little copse. Almost 
suddenly the creek wound round under a low chalk cliff, 
and in a moment Felix found himself confronted by 
another city. This had no wall ; it was merely defended 
by a ditch and earthwork, without tower or bastion. 

The houses were placed thickly together ; there were, 
he thought, six or seven times as many as he had previously 
seen, and they were thatched or shingled, like those in his 
own country. It stood in the midst of the fields, and the 
corn came up to the fosse ; there were many people at 
work, but, as he noticed, most of them were old men, 
bowed and feeble. A little way farther he saw a second 
boathouse ; he hastened thither, and the ferrywoman, for 
the boat was poled across by a stout dame, made not the 
least difficulty about ferrying him over. So delighted was 
Felix at this imexpected fortune, that he gave her the 
small silver coin, at sight of which he instantly rose high 
in her estimation. 

She explained to him, in answer to his inquiries, that 
this was also called Aisi ; this was the city of the common 
folk. Those who were rich or powerful had houses in 
the walled city, the precinct of the Court. Many of the 
houses there, too, were the inns of great families who 
dwelt in the country in their castles, but when they came 
to the Court required a house. Their shields, or coats of 
arms, were painted over the doors. The walled city was 
guarded with such care, because so many attempts had 



THE CITY 



199 



been made to surprise it, and to assassinate the king, 
whose fiery disposition and constant wars had raised him 
up so many enemies. As much care was taken to pre- 
vent a single stranger entering as if he were the vanguard 
of a hostile army, and if he now went back (as he could 
do) to the bridge over the river, he would be stopped and 
questioned, and possibly, confined in prison till the king 
returned. 

" Where is the king ?" asked Felix ; " I came to try 
and take service with him." 

" Then you will be welcome," said the woman. " He 
is in the field, and has just sat down before Iwis." 

"That was why the walled city seemed so empty, 
then," said Felix. 

" Yes ; all the people are with him ; there will be a 
great battle this time." 

" How far is it to Iwis ?" said Felix. 

" Twenty-seven miles," replied the dame ; " and if you 
take my advice, you had better walk twenty-seven miles 
there than • two miles back to the bridge over the 
river." 

Someone now called from the opposite bank, and she 
started with the boat to fetch another passenger. 

" Thank you very much," said Felix, as he wished her 
good-day ; " but why did not the man at the other ferry 
tell me I could cross here ?" 

The woman laughed outright. " Do you suppose he 
was going to put a penny in my way when he could not 
get it himself?" 



200 AFTER LONDON 

So mean and petty is the world ! Felix entered the 
second city and walked some distance through it, when he 
recollected that he had not eaten for some time. He 
looked in vain for an inn, but upon speaking to a man 
who was leaning on his crutch at a doorway, he was at 
once asked to enter, and all that the house afforded was 
put before him. The man with the crutch sat down 
opposite, and remarked tliat most of the folk were gone to 
the camp, but he could not because his foot had been 
injured. He then went on to tell how it had happened, 
with the usual garrulity of the wounded. He was assist- 
ing to place the beam of a battering-ram upon a truck (it 
took ten horses to draw it) when a lever snapped, and the 
beam fell. Had the beam itself touched him he would 
have been killed on the spot ; as it was, only a part of the 
broken lever or pole hit him. Thrown with such force, 
the weight of the ram driving it, the fragment of the pole 
grazed his leg, and either broke one of the small bones 
that form the arch of the instep, or so bruised it that it 
was worse than broken. All the bone-setters and surgeons 
had gone to the camp, and he was left without attendance 
other than the women, who fomented the foot daily, but 
he had little hope of present recovery, knowing that such 
things were often months about. 

He thought it lucky that it was no worse, for very few, 
he had noticed, ever recovered from serious wounds of 
spear or arrow. The wounded generally died ; only the 
fortunate escaped. Thus he ran on, talking as much for 
his own amusement as that of his guest. He fretted 



THE CITY 201 

because he could not join the camp and help work the 
artillery; he supposed the ram would be in position by 
now, and shaking the wall with its blow. He wondered 
if Baron Ingulph would miss his face. 

"Who's he?" asked Felix. 

" He is captain of the artillery," replied his host. 

" Are you his retainer ?" 

" No ; I am a servant." 

Felix started slightly, and did but just check himself 
from rising from the table. A " servant " was a slave ; 
it was the euphuism used instead of the hateful word, 
which not even the most degraded can endure to hear. 
The class of the nobles to which he belonged deemed it 
a disgrace to sit down with a slave, to eat with him, even 
to accidentally touch him. With the retainers, or free 
men, they were on familiar terms, though despotic to the 
last degree; the slave was less than the dog. Then, 
stealing a glance at the man's face, Felix saw that he had 
iio moustache ; he had not noticed this before. No slaves 
were allowed to wear the moustache. 

This man, having been at home ill some days, had 
neglected to shave, and there was some mark upon his 
upper lip. As he caught his guest's glance, the slave 
hung his head, and asked his guest in a low and humble 
voice not to mention this fault. With his face slightly 
flushed, Felix finished his meal; he was confused to the 
last degree. His long training and the tone of the society 
in which he had moved (though so despised a member of 
it) prejudiced him strongly against the man whose hospi- 



202 AFTER LONDON 

tality was so welcome. On the other hand, the ideas 
which had for so long worked in his mind in his solitary 
intercommunings in the forest were entirely opposed to 
servitude. In abstract principle he had long since con- 
demned it, and desired to abolish it. But here was the 
fact. 

He had eaten at a slave's table, and sat with him face 
to face. Theory and practice are often strangely at 
variance. He felt it an important moment ; he felt that 
he was himself, as it were, on the balance; should he 
adhere to the ancient prejudice, the ancient exclusiveness 
of his class, or should he boldly follow the dictate of his 
mind ? He chose the latter, and extended his hand to the 
servant as he rose to say good-bye. The act was 
significant; it recognised man as distinct from caste. 
The servant did not know the conflict that had taken 
place ; but to be shaken hands with at all, even by a 
retainer, as he supposed Felix to be, was indeed a surprise. 
He could not understand it ; it was the first time his hai)d 
had been taken by anyone of superior position since he 
liad been born. He was dumb with amazement, and 
could scarcely point out the road when asked ; nor did 
he take the small coin Felix offered, one of the few he 
possessed. Felix therefore left it on the table and again 
started. 

Passing through the town, Felix followed the track 
which led in the direction indicated. In about half a 
mile it led him to a wider track, which he immediately 
recognised as the main way and road to the camp by the 



THE CAMP 203 

ruts and dust, for the sward had been trampled down for 
fifty yards wide, and even the corn was cut up by wheels 
and horses' hoofs. The army had passed, and he had but 
to follow its unmistakable trail. 



CHAPTER XVII. 
THE CAMP. 

Felix walked steadily on for nearly three hours, when the 
rough track, the dust, and heat began to tell upon him, 
and he sat down beside the way. The sun was now 
declining, and the long June day tending to its end. A 
horseman passed coming from the camp, and as he wore 
only a sword, and a leathern bag slung from his shoulder, 
he appeared to be a courier. The dust raised by the 
hoofs, as it rose and floated above the brushwood, rendered 
his course visible. Some time afterwards, while he still 
rested, being very weary with walking through the heat 
of the afternoon, he heard the sound of wheels, and two 
carts drawn by horses came along the track from the city. 
The carts were laden with bundles of arrows, perhaps 
the same he had seen unloading that morning from the 
war-ship, and were accompanied only by carters. As 
they approached he rose, feeling that it was time to 
continue his journey. His tired feet were now stiff, and 
he limped as he stepped out into the road. The men 
spoke, and he walked as well as he could beside them, 
using his boar-spear as a staff. There were two carters 



204 AFTER LONDON 

with each cart ; and presently, noting how he lagged, and 
could scarce keep pace with them, one of them took a 
wooden bottle from the load on his cart, and offered him 
a draught of ale. 

Thus somewhat refreshed, Felix began to talk, and 
learnt that the arrows were from the vessel in whose 
track he had sailed ; that it had been sent loaded with , 
stores for the king's use, by his friend the Prince of 
Quinton ; that very great efforts had been made to get 
together a large army in this campaign : first, because the 
city besieged was so near home, and failure might be 
disastrous, and, secondly, because it was one of three 
which were all republics, and the other two would be 
certain to send it assistance. These cities stood in a 
plain, but a few miles apart, and in a straight line on the 
banks of the river. The king had just sat down before 
the first, vowing that he would knock them down, one 
after the other, like a row of ninepins. 

The carters asked him, in return, whose retainer he 
was, and he said that he was on his way to take service, 
and was under no banner yet. 

"Then," said the man who had given him a drink, "if 
you are free like that, you had better join the king's levy, 
and be careful to avoid the barons' war. For if you join 
either of the barons' war, they will know you to be a 
stranger, and very likely, if they see that you are quick and 
active, they will not let you free again, and if you attempt 
to escape after the campaign, you will find yourself 
mightily mistaken. The baron's captain would only 



THE CAMP 205 

have to say you had always been his man ; and, as for 
your word, it would be no more than a dog's bark. 
Besides which, if you rebelled, it would be only to 
shave off that moustache of yours, and declare you a 
slave, and as you have no friends in camp, a slave you 
would be." 

" That would be very unjust," said Felix. " Surely 
the king would not allow it ?" 

" How is he to know ?" said another of the carters. 
" My brother's boy was served just like that. He was 
born free, the same as all our family, but he was fond of 
roving, and when he reached Quinton, he was seen by 
Baron Robert, who was in want of men, and being 
a likely young fellow, they shaved his lip, and forced him 
to labour under the thong. When his spirit was cowed, 
and he seemed reconciled, they let him grow his mous- 
tache again, and there he is now, a retainer, and well 
treated. But still, it was against his will. Jack is right ^ 
you had better join the king's levy." 

The king's levy is composed of his own retainers from 
his estates, of townsmen, who are not retainers of the 
barons, of any knights and volunteers who like to offer 
their services ; and a king always desires as large a levy as 
possible, because it enables him to overawe his barons. 
These, when their " war," or forces, are collected together 
in camp, are often troublesome, and inclined to usurp 
authority. A volunteer is, therefore, always welcome in 
the king's levy. 

Felix thanked them for the information they had given 



2o6 AFTER LONDON 

him, and said he should certainly follow their advice. 
He could now hardly keep up with the carts, having 
walked for so many hours, and undergone so much 
previous exertion. Finding this to be the case, he wished 
them good-night, and looked round for some cover. It 
was now dusk, and he knew he could go no farther. 
When they understood his intention, they consulted 
among themselves, and finally made him get up into one 
of the carts, and sit down on the bundles of arrows, which 
filled it like faggots. Thus he was jolted along, the rude 
wheels fitting but badly on the axle, and often sinking 
deep into a rut. 

They were now in thick forest, and the track was 
much narrower, so that it had become worn into a 
hollow, as if it were the dry bed of a torrent. The 
horses and the carters were weary, yet they were obliged 
to plod on, as the arms had to be delivered before the 
morrow. They spoke little, except to urge the animals. 
Felix soon dropped into a reclining posture (uneasy as it 
was, it was a relief), and looking up, saw the white summer 
stars above. After a time he lost consciousness, and slept 
soundly, quite worn out, despite the jolting and creaking 
of the wheels. 

The sound of a trumpet woke him with a start. His 
heavy and dreamless sleep for a moment had taken away 
his memory, and he did not know where he was. As he 
sat up two sacks fell from him ; the carters had thrown 
them over him as a protection against the night dew. 
The summer morning was already as bright as noonday. 



THE CAMP 207 

and the camp about him was astir. In half a minute he 
came to himself, and, getting out of the cart, looked round. 
All his old interest had returned, the spirit of war entered 
into him, the trumpet sounded again, and the morning 
breeze extended the many-coloured banners. 

The spot where he stood was in the rear of the main 
camp, and but a short distance from the unbroken forest. 
Upon either hand there was an intermingled mass of 
stores, carts, and waggons crowded together, sacks and 
huge heaps of forage, on and about which scores of slaves, 
drivers, and others were sleeping in every possible attitude, 
many of them evidently still under the influence of the 
ale they had drunk the night before. What struck him at 
once was the absence of any guard here in the rear. The 
enemy might steal out from the forest behind and help 
liimself to what he chose, or murder the sleeping men, or, 
passing through the stores, fall on the camp itself. To 
Felix this neglect appeared inexplicable ; it indicated a 
mental state which he could not comprehend, a state only 
to be described by negatives. There was no completeness, 
no system, no organization ; it was a kind of haphazard- 
ness, altogether opposite to his own clear and well-ordered 
ideas. 

The ground sloped gently downwards from the edge of 
the forest, and the place where he was had probably been 
ploughed, but was now trodden flat and hard. Next in 
front of the stores he observed a long, low hut built of 
poles, and roofed with fir branches ; the walls were formed 
of ferns, straw, bundles of hay, anything that had come to 



2o8 AFTER LONDON 

hand. On a standard beside it, a pale blue banner, with 
the device of a double hammer worked in gold upon it, 
fluttered in the wind. Twenty or thirty, perhaps more, 
spears leant against one end of this rude shed, their bright 
points projecting yards above the roof. To the right of 
the booth as many horses were picketed, and not far from 
them some soldiers were cooking at an open fire of logs. 
As Felix came slowly towards the booth, winding in and 
out among the carts and heaps of sacks, he saw that 
similar erections extended down the slope for a long 
distance. 

There were hundreds of them, some large, some small, 
not placed in any order, but pitched where chance or 
fancy led, the first-comers taking the sites that pleased 
them, and the rest crowding round. Beside each hut 
stood the banner of the owner, and Felix knew from this 
that they were occupied by the barons, knights, and 
captains of the army. The retainers of each baron 
bivouacked as they might in the open air ; some of them 
had hunter's hides, and others used bundles of straw ta 
sleep on. Their fire was as close to their lord's hut as 
convenient, and thus there were always plenty within call. 

The servants, or slaves, also slept in the open air, but in 
the rear of their owner's booth, and apart from the free 
retainers. Felix noticed that, although the huts were 
pitched anyhow and anywhere, those on the lowest 
ground seemed built along a line, and, looking closer, he 
found that a small stream ran there. He learnt afterwards 
that there was usually an emulation among the com- 



THE CAMP 2oq 

manders to set up their standards as near the water as 
possible, on account of convenience, those in the rear 
having often to lead their horses a long distance to water. 
Beyond the stream the ground rose again as gradually as 
it had declined. It was open and cultivated up to the 
walls of the besieged city, which was not three-quarters of 
a mile distant. Felix could not for the moment dis- 
tinguish the king's head-quarters. The confused manner 
in which the booths were built prevented him from seeing 
far, though from the higher ground it was easy to look 
over their low roofs. 

He now wandered into the centre of the camp, and saw 
with astonishment groups of retainers everywhere eating, 
drinking, talking, and even playing cards or dice, but 
not a single officer of any rank. At last, stopping by the 
embers of a fire, he asked timidly if he might have break- 
fast. The soldiers laughed, and pointed to a cart behind 
them, telling him to help himself. The cart was turned 
with the tail towards the fire, and laden with bread and 
sides of bacon, slices 8f which the retainers had been 
toasting at the embers. 

He did as he was bid, and the next minute a soldier, 
not quite steady on his legs even at that hour, offered 
him the can, " for," said he, " you had best drink whilst 
you may, youngster. There is always plenty of drink 
and good living at the beginning of a war, and very often 
not a drop or a bite to be got in the middle of it." 
Listening to their talk as he ate his breakfast, Felix found 
the reason there were no officers about was because most of 

14 



210 AFTER LONDON 

them had drunk too freely the night before. The king him- 
self, they said, was put to bed as tight as a drum, and it took 
no small quantity to fill so huge a vessel, for he was a 
remarkably big man. 

After the fatigue of the recent march, they had, in fact» 
refreshed themselves, and washed down the dust of the 
track. They thought that this siege was likely to be a 
\ery tough business, and congratulated themselves that it 
was not thirty miles to Aisi, so that so long as they stayed 
there they might, perhaps, get supplies of provisions with 
tolerable regularity. " But if you're over the water, my 
lad," said the old fellow with the can, picking his teeth 
with a twig, " and have got to get your victuals by ship ; 
by George, you may have to eat grass, or gnaw boughs 
like a horse." 

None of these men wore any arms, except the inevitable 
knife ; their arms were piled against the adjacent booth, 
bows and quivers, spears, swords, bills and darts, thrown 
together just as they had cast them aside, and more or less 
rusty from the dew. Felix thought that had the enemy 
come suddenly down in force they might have made a 
clean sweep of the camp, for there were no defences, 
neither breastwork, nor fosse, nor any set guard. But he 
forgot that the enemy were quite as ill-organised as the 
besiegers ; probably they were in still greater confusion, 
for King Isembard was considered one of the greatest 
military commanders of his age, if not the very greatest. 

The only sign of discipline he saw was the careful 
grooming of some horses, which he rightly guessed to be 



THE CAMP 211 

those ridden by the knights, and the equally careful 
polishing of pieces of armour before the doors of the huts. 
He wished now to inquire his way to the king's levy, but 
as the question rose to his lips he checked himself, remem- 
bering the caution the friendly carters had given him. 
He therefore determined to walk about the camp till he 
found some evidence that he was in the immediate neigh- 
bourhood of the king. 

He rose, stood about a little while to allay any possible 
suspicion (quite needless precautions, for the soldiers were 
fer too agreeably engaged to take the least notice of him), 
and then sauntered off with as careless an air as he could 
assume. Looking about him, first at a forge where the 
blacksmith was shoeing a horse, then at a grindstone, where 
a knight's sword was being sharpened, he was nearly 
knocked down by a horse, urged at some speed through 
the crowds. By a rope from the collar, three dead bodies 
were drawn along the ground, dusty and disfigured by 
bumping against stone and clod. They were those of 
slaves, hanged the preceding day, perhaps for pilfering, 
perhaps for a mere whim, since every baron had power of 
the gallows. 

They were dragged through the camp, and out a few 
hundred yards beyond, and there left to the crows. This 
horrible sight, to which the rest were so accustomed and 
so indifferent that they did not even turn to look at it, 
deeply shocked him ; the drawn and distorted features, the 
tongues protruding and literally licking the dust, haunted 
him for long after. Though his father, as a baron, 

14 — 2 



212 AFTER LONDON 

possessed the same power, it had never been exercised 
during his tenure of the estate, so that Felix had not been 
hardened to the sight of executions, common enough else- 
where. Upon the Old House estate a species of negative 
humanity reigned ; if the slaves were not emancipated, 
they were not hanged or cruelly beaten for trifles. 

Hastening from the spot, Felix came across the 
artillery, which consisted of battering rams and immense 
crossbows; the bows were made from entire trees, or, 
more properly, poles. He inspected these clumsy con- 
trivances with interest, and entered into conversation 
with some men who were fitting up the framework on 
which a battering ram was to swing. Being extremely 
conceited with themselves and the knowledge they had 
acquired from experience only (as the repeated blows of 
the block drive home the pile), they scarcely answered 
him. But, presently, as he lent a hand to assist, and bore 
with their churlishness without reply, they softened, and, 
as usual, asked him to drink, for here, and throughout the 
camp, the ale was plentiful, too plentiful for much 
progress. 

Felix took the opportunity and suggested a new form 
of trigger for the unwieldy crossbows. He saw that as 
at present discharged it must require some strength, 
perhaps the united effort of several men, to pull away the 
bolt or catch. Such an effort must disconcert the aim ; 
these crossbows were worked upon a carriage, and it was 
difficult to keep the carriage steady even when stakes 
were inserted by the low wheels. It occurred to him at 



THE CAMP 213 

once that the catch could be depressed by a lever, so that 
one man could discharge the bow by a mere pressure of 
the hand, and without interfering with the aim. The 
men soon understood him, and acknowledged that it 
would be a great improvement. One, who was the 
leader of the gang, thought it so valuable an idea that he 
went off at once to communicate with the lieutenant, 
who would in his turn carry the matter to Baron 
Ingulph, Master of the Artillery. 

The others congratulated him, and asked to share in 
the reward that would be given to him for this invention. 
To whose " war " did he belong ? Felix answered, after 
a little hesitation, to the king's levy. At this they 
whispered among themselves, and Felix, again remember- 
ing the carters' caution, said that he must attend the 
muster (this was a pure guess), but that he would return 
directly afterwards. Never for a moment suspecting that 
he would avoid the reward they looked upon as certain, 
they made no opposition, and he hurried away. Pushing 
through the groups, and not in the least knowing where 
he was going, Felix stumbled at last upon the king's 
quarters. 



214 AFTER LONDON 

CHAPTER XVIII. 

THE king's levy. 

The king's booth stood apart from the rest ; it was not 
much larger, but properly thatched with straw, and the 
wide doorway hung with purple curtains. Two standards 
stood beside it ; one much higher than the other. The 
tallest bore the ensign of the kingdom ; the lesser, the 
king's own private banner as a knight. A breastwork 
encircled the booth, enclosing a space about seventy yards 
in diameter, with a fosse, and stakes so planted as to repel 
assailants. There was but one gateway, opposite the 
general camp, and this was guarded by soldiers fully 
armed. A knight on horseback in armour, except his 
helmet, rode slowly up and down before the gate; he 
was the officer of the guard. His retainers, some thirty 
or forty men, were drawn up close by. 

A distance of fifty yards intervened between this 
entrenchment and the camp, and was kept clear. Within 
the entrenchment Felix could see a number of gentlemen, 
and several horses caparisoned, but from the absence of 
noise, and the fact that every one appeared to walk 
daintily and on tiptoe, he concluded that the king was 
still sleeping. The stream ran beside the entrenchment, 
and between it and the city ; the king's quarters were at 
that corner of the camp highest up the brook, so that the 
water might not be fouled before it reached him. 

The king's levy, however, did not seem to be here- 



THE KING'S LEVY 215 

abouts, for the booths nearest the head-quarters were 
evidently occupied by great barons, as Felix easily knew 
from their banners. There was here some little appear- 
ance of formality; the soldiery were not so noisy, and 
there were several officers moving among them. He 
afterwards discovered that the greater barons claimed the 
right to camp nearest the king, and that the king's levy 
was just behind their booths. But, unable to discover the 
place, and afraid of losing his liberty if he delayed longer, 
Felix, after hesitating some time, determined to apply direct 
to the guard at the gate of the circular entrenchment. 

As he crossed the open ground towards it, he noticed 
that the king's quarters were the closest to the enemy. 
Across the little stream were some corn-fields, and 
beyond these the walls of the city, scarcely half a mile 
distant. There was no outpost, the stream was but a 
brook, and could be crossed with ease. He marvelled at 
the lack of precaution ; but he had yet to learn that the 
enemy, and all the armies of the age, were equally 
ignorant and equally careless. 

With as humble a demeanour as he could assume, 
Felix doffed his cap and began to speak to the guard at 
the gateway of the entrenchment. The nearest man-at- 
arms immediately raised his spear and struck at him with 
the butt. The unexpected blow fell on his left shoulder, 
and with such force as to render it powerless. Before he 
could utter a remonstrance, a second had seized his boar- 
spear, snapped the handle across his knee, and hurled the 
fragments from him. Others then took him by the 



2i6 AFTER LONDON 

shoulders and thrust him back across the open space to 
the camp, where they kicked him and left him, bruised,, 
and almost stupefied with indignation. His offence was 
approaching the king's ground with arms in his hands. 

Later in the afternoon he found himself sitting on the 
bank of the stream far below the camp. He had wandered 
thither without knowing where he was going or what he 
was doing. His spirit for the time had been crushed, not 
so much by the physical brutality as by the repulse to his 
aspirations. Full of high hopes, and conscious of great 
ideas, he had been beaten like a felon hound. 

From this spot beside the brook the distant camp 
appeared very beautiful. The fluttering banners, the 
green roofs of the booths (of ferns and reeds and boughs),, 
the movement and life, for bodies of troops were now 
marching to and fro, and knights in gay attire riding on 
horseback, made a pleasant scene on the sloping ground 
with the forest at the back. Over the stream the sunshine 
lit up the walls of the threatened city, where, too, many 
flags were waving. Felix came somewhat to himself as- 
he gazed, and presently acknowledged that he had only 
had himself to blame. He had evidently transgressed a 
rule, and his ignorance of the rule was no excuse, since 
those who had any right to be in the camp at all were 
supposed to understand it. 

He got up, and returning slowly towards the camp, 
passed on his way the drinking-place, where a groom was 
watering some horses. The man called to him to help hold 
a spirited charger, and Felix mechanically did as he was 



THE KING'S LEVY 217 

asked. The fellow's mates had left him to do their work, 
and there were too many horses for him to manage. Felix 
led the charger for him back to the camp, and in return 
was asked to drink. He preferred food, and a plentiful 
supply was put before him. The groom, gossiping as he 
attended to his duties, said that he always welcomed the 
beginning of a war, for they were often half starved, and 
had to gnaw the bones, like the dogs, in peace. But when 
war was declared, vast quantities of provisions were got 
together, and everybody gorged at their will. The very 
dogs battened ; he pointed to half a dozen who were 
tearing a raw shoulder of mutton to pieces. Before the 
campaign was over, those very dogs might starve. To 
what " war " did Felix belong ? He replied to the king's 
levy. 

The groom said that this was the king's levy where 
they were; but under whose command was he? This 
puzzled Felix, who did not know what to say, and ended 
by telling the truth, and begging the fellow to advise him, 
as he feared to lose his liberty. The man said he had 
better stay where he was, and serve with him under 
Master Lacy, who was mean enough in the city, but liked 
to appear liberal when thus consorting with knights and 
gentlemen. 

Master Lacy was a merchant of Aisi, an owner of 
vessels. Like most of his fellows, when war came so 
close home, he was almost obliged to join the king's levy. 
Had he not done so it would have been recorded against 
him as lack of loyalty. His privileges would have been 



218 AFTER LONDON 

taken from him, possibly the wealth he had accumulated 
seized, and himself reduced to slavery. Lacy, therefore, 
put on armour, and accompanied the king to the camp. 
Thus Felix, after all his aspirations, found himself serving 
as the knave of a mere citizen. 

He had to take the horses dov^^n to water, to scour 
arms, to fetch wood from the forest for the fire. He was at 
the beck and call of all the other men, who never scrupled 
to use his services, and, obsen'ing that he never refused, 
put upon him all the more. On the other hand, when 
there was nothing doing, they were very kind and even 
thoughtful. They shared the best with him, brought 
wine occasionally (wine was scarce, though ale plentiful) 
as a delicacy, and one, who had dexterously taken a purse, 
presented him with half a dozen copper coins as his share 
of the plunder. Felix, grown wiser by experience, did 
not dare refuse the stolen money, it would have been 
considered as the greatest insult ; he watched his oppor- 
tunity and threw it away. 

The men, of course, quickly discovered his superior 
education, but that did not in the least surprise them, it 
being extremely common for unfortunate people to descend 
by degrees to menial offices, if once they left the estate and 
homestead to which they naturally belonged. There as 
cadets, however humble, they were certain of outward 
respect: once outside the influence of the head of the 
house, and they were worse off than the lowest retainer. 
His fellows would have resented any show of pride, and 
would speediy have made his life intolerable. As he 



THE KING'S LEVY 219 

showed none, they almost petted him, but at the same 
time expected him to do more than his share of the work. 

Felix listened with amazement to the revelations 
"(revelations to him) of the inner life of the camp and 
court. The king's weaknesses, his inordinate gluttony and 
continual intoxication, his fits of temper, his follies and 
foibles, seemed as familiar to these grooms as if they had 
dwelt with him. As for the courtiers and barons, there 
was not one whose vices and secret crimes were not 
perfectly well known to them. Vice and crime must 
have their instruments ; instruments are invariably in- 
discreet, and thus secrets escape. The palace intrigues, 
the intrigues with other States, the influence of certain 
women, there was nothing which they did not know. 

Seen thus from below, the whole society appeared rotten 
and corrupted, coarse to the last degree, animated only 
by the lowest motives. This very gossip seemed in itself 
criminal to Felix, but he did not at the moment reflect 
that it was but the tale of servants. Had such language 
been used by gentlemen, then it would have been treason. 
As himself of noble birth, Felix had hitherto seen things 
only from the point of view of his own class. Now he 
associated with grooms, he began to see society from 
their point of view, and recognised how feebly it was held 
together by brute force, intrigue, cord and axe, and 
woman's flattery. But a push seemed needed to overthrow 
it. Yet it was quite secure, nevertheless, as there was 
none to give that push, and if any such plot had been 
formed, those very slaves who suffered the most would 



220 AFTER LONDON 

have been the very men to give information, and to 
torture the plotters. 

Felix had never dreamed that common and illiterate men, 
such as these grooms and retainers, could have any con- 
ception of reasons of State, or the crafty designs of courts. 

He novir found that, though they could neither w^rite 
nor read, they had learned the art of reading man (the 
w^orst and lowest side of character) to such perfection that 
they at once detected the motive. They read the face ; 
the very gait and gesture gave them a clue. They read 
man, in fact, as an animal. They understood men just 
as they understood the horses and hounds under their 
charge. Every mood and vicious indication in those 
animals was known to them, and so, too, with their 
masters. 

Felix thought that he was himself a hunter, and 
understood woodcraft ; he now found how mistaken he 
had been. He had acquired woodcraft as a gentleman ; 
he now learned the knave's woodcraft. They taught 
him a hundred tricks of which he had had no idea. 
They stripped man of his dignity, and nature of her 
refinement. Everything had a blackguard side to them. 
He began to understand that high principles and abstract 
theories were only words with the mass of men. 

One day he saw a knight coolly trip up a citizen (one 
of the king's levy) in the midst of the camp and in broad 
daylight, and quietly cut away his purse, at least a score 
of persons looking on. But they were only retainers and 
slaves ; there was no one whose word would for a moment 



THE KING'S LEVY 221 

have been received against the knight's, who had observed 
this, and plundered the citizen with impunity. He flung 
the lesser coins to the crowd, keeping the gold and silver 
for himself, and walked off amid their plaudits. 

Felix saw a slave nailed to a tree, his arms put round 
it so as to clasp it, and then nails driven through them. 
There he was left in his agony to perish. No one knew 
what his fault had been ; his master had simply taken a 
dislike to him. A guard was set that no one should 
relieve the miserable being. Felix's horror and indigna- 
tion could not have been expressed, but he was totally 
helpless. 

His own condition of mind during this time was such 
as could not well be analysed. He did not himself under- 
stand whether his spirit had been broken, whether he was 
really degraded with the men with whom he lived, or 
why he remained with them, though there were moments 
when it dawned upon him that this education, rude as it 
was, was not without its value to him. He need not 
practise these evils, but it was well to know of their 
existence. Thus he remained, as it were, quiescent, and 
the days passed on. He really had not much to do, 
although the rest put their burdens upon him, for disci- 
pline was so lax, that the loosest attendance answered 
equally well with the most conscientious. The one thing 
all the men about him seemed to think of was the satisfy- 
ing of their appetites ; the one thing they rejoiced at was 
the fine dry weather, for, as his mates told him, the 
misery of camp life in rain was almost unendurable. 



222 AFTER LONDON 

CHAPTER XIX. 

FIGHTING. 

Twice Felix saw the king. Once there was a review of 
the horse outside the camp, and Felix, having to attend 
with his master's third charger (a mere show and affecta- 
tion, for there was not the least chance of his needing it), 
was now and then very near the monarch. For that day 
at least he looked every whit what fame had reported him 
to be. A man of imusual size, his bulk rendered him 
conspicuous in the front of the throng. His massive head 
seemed to accord well with the possession of the despotic 
power. 

,The brow was a little bare, for he was no longer young, 
but the back of his head was covered with thick ringlets 
of brown hair, so thick as to partly conceal the coronet 
of gold which he wore. A short purple cloak, scarcely 
reaching to the waist, was thrown back off his shoulders, 
so that his steel corselet glistened in the sun. It was the 
only armour he had on ; a long sword hung at his side. 
He rode a powerful black horse, full eighteen hands 
high, by far the finest animal on the ground ; he required- 
it, for his weight must have been great. Felix passed 
near enough to note that his eyes were brown, and the 
expression of his face open, frank, and pleasing. The 
impression left upon the observer was that of a strong 
intellect, but a still stronger physique, which latter too 
often ran away with and controlled the former. No one 



FIGHTING 223 

could look upon him without admiration, and it was 
difficult to think that he could so demean himself as to 
wallow in the grossest indulgence. 

As for the review, tliough it was a brilliant scene, Felix 
could not conceal from himself that these gallant knights 
were extremely irregular in their movements, and not one 
single evolution was performed correctly, because they 
were continually quarrelling about precedence, and one 
would not consent to follow the other. He soon under- 
stood, however, that discipline was not the object, nor 
regularity considered; personal courage and personal 
dexterity were everything. This review was the prelude 
to active operations, and Felix now hoped to have some 
practical lessons in warfare. 

He was mistaken. Instead of a grand assault, or a 
regular approach, the fighting was merely a series of 
combats between small detachments and bodies of the 
enemy. Two or three knights with their retainers and 
slaves would start forth, cross the stream, and riding right 
past the besieged city endeavour to sack some small 
hamlet, or the homestead of a noble. From the city a 
sortie would ensue ; sometimes the two bodies only 
threatened each other at a distance, the first retiring as 
the second advanced. Sometimes only a few arrows were 
discharged; occasionally they came to blows, but the 
casualties were rarely heavy. 

One such party, while returning, was followed by a 
squadron of horsemen from the town towards the stream 
to within three hundred yards of the king's quarters. 



224 AFTER LONDON 

Incensed at this assurance, several knights mounted their 
horses and rode out to reinforce the returning detachment, 
which was loaded with booty. Finding themselves about 
to be supported, they threw down their spoils, faced about, 
and Felix saw for the first time a real and desperate melie. 
It was over in five minutes. The king's knights, far better 
horsed, and filled with desire to exhibit their valour to the 
camp, charged with such fury that they overthrew the 
enemy and rode over him. 

Felix saw the troops meet; there was a crash and 
cracking as the lances broke, four or five rolled from the 
saddle on the trodden corn, and the next moment the 
entangled mass of men and horses unwound itself as the 
enemy hastened back to the walls. Felix was eager to 
join in such an affray, but he had no horse nor weapon. 
Upon another occasion early one bright morning four 
knights and their followers, about forty in all, deliberately 
-set out from camp, and advanced up the sloping ground 
towards the city. The camp was soon astir watching 
their proceedings ; and the king, being made acquainted 
with what was going on, came out from his booth. 
Felix, who now entered the circular entrenchment without 
any difficulty, got up on the mound with scores of others, 
■where, holding to the stakes, they had a good view. 

The king stood on a bench and watched the troops 
advance, shading his eyes with his hand. As it was but 
half a mile to the walls they could see all that took place. 
When the knights had got within two hundred yards and 
arrows began to drop amongst them, they dismounted 



FIGHTING 225 

from their horses and left them in charge of the grooms, 
who walked them up and down, none remaining still a 
minute, so as to escape the aim of the enemy's archers. 
Then drawing their swords, the knights, who were in full 
armour, put themselves at the head of the band, and 
advanced at a steady pace to the wall. In their mail, with 
their shields before them, they cared not for such feeble 
archery, nor even for the darts that poured upon them 
when they came within reach. There was no fosse to 
the wall, so that, pushing forward, they were soon at the 
foot. So easily had they reached it that Felix almost 
thought the city already won. Now he saw blocks of 
stone, darts, and beams of wood cast at them from the 
parapet, which was not more than twelve feet above the 
ground. 

Quite undismayed, the knights set up their ladders, of 
which they had but four, one each. The men-at-arms 
held these by main force against the wall, the besiegers 
trying to throw them away, and chopping at the rungs 
with their axes. But the ladders were well shod with 
iron to resist such blows, and in a moment Felix saw, 
with intense delight and admiration, the four knights 
slowly mount to the parapet and cut at the defenders 
with their swords. The gleam of steel was distinctly 
visible as the blades rose and fell. The enemy thrust at 
them with pikes, but seemed to shrink from closer combat, 
and a moment afterwards the gallant four stood on the 
top of the wall. Their figures, clad in mail and shield 
in hand, were distinctly seen against the sky. Up swarmed 

«5 



226 AFTER LONDON 

the men-at-arms behind them, and some seemed to descend 
on the other side. A shout rose from the camp and 
echoed over the woods. Felix shouted with the rest, 
wild with excitement. 

The next minute, while yet the knights stood on the 
walls, and scarcely seemed to know what to do next, there 
appeared at least a dozen men in armour running along 
the wall towards them. Felix afterwards understood that 
the ease with which the four won the wall at first was 
owing to there being no men of knightly rank among the 
defenders at that early hour. Those who had collected to 
repulse the assault were citizens, retainers, slaves, any, in 
fact who had been near. But now the news had reached 
the enemy's leaders, and some of them hastened to the 
wall. As these were seen approaching, the camp was 
hushed, and every eye strained on the combatants. 

The noble four could not all meet their assailants, the 
wall was but wide enough for two to fight ; but the other 
two had work enough the next minute, as eight or ten 
more men in mail advanced the other way. So they 
fought back to back, two facing one way, and two the 
other. The swords rose and fell. Felix saw a flash of 
light fly up into the air — it was the point of a sword broken 
off short. At the foot of the wall the men who had not 
had time to mount endeavoured to assist their masters by 
stabbing upwards with their spears. 

All at once two of the knights were hurled from the 
wall ; one seemed to be caught by his men, the other 
came heavily to the ground. While they were fighting 



FIGHTING 227 

their immediate antagonists, others within the wall had 
come with lances, and literally thrust them from the 
parapet. The other two still fought back to back for a 
moment; then, finding themselves overwhelmed, they 
sprang down among their friends. 

The minute the two first fell, the grooms with the 
horses ran towards the wall, and despite the rain of arrows, 
darts, and stones from the parapet, Felix saw with relier 
three of the four knights placed on their chargers. One 
only could sit upright unassisted, two were supported in 
their saddles, and the fourth was carried by his retainers. 
Thus they retreated, and apparently without further hurt, 
for the enemy on the wall crowded so much together as 
to interfere with the aim of their darts, which, too, soon 
fell short. But there was a dark heap beneath the wall, 
where ten or twelve retainers and slaves, who wore no 
armour, had been slain or disabled. Upon these the loss 
invariably fell. 

None attempted to follow the retreating party, who 
slowly returned towards the camp, and were soon 
apparently in safety. But suddenly a fresh party appeared 
upon the wall, and the instant afterwards three retainers 
dropped, as if struck by lightning. They had been hit 
by sling stones, whirled with great force by practised 
slingers. These rounded pebbles come with such impetus 
as to stun a man at two hundred yards. The aim, it is 
true, is uncertain, but where there is a body of troops 
they are sure to strike some one. Hastening on, leaving 
the three fallen men where they lay, the rest in two 



228 AFTER LONDON 

minutes were out of range, and came safely into camp. 
Everyone, as they crossed the stream, ran to meet them, 
the king included, and as he passed in the throng, Felix 
heard him remark that they had had a capital main of 
cocks that morning. 

Of the knights only one was much injured ; he had 
fallen upon a stone, and two ribs were broken ; the rest 
suffered from severe bruises, but had no wound. Six 
men-at-arms were missing, probably prisoners, for, as 
courageous as their masters, they had leapt down from the 
wall into the town. Eleven other retainers or slaves were 
slain, or had deserted, or were prisoners, and no trouble 
was taken about them. As for the three who were 
knocked over by the sling stones, there they lay till they 
recovered their senses, when they crawled into camp. 
This incident cooled Felix's ardour for the fray, for he 
reflected that, if injured thus, he too, as a mere groom, 
would be left. The devotion of the retainers to save and 
succour their masters was almost heroic. The mailed 
knights thought no more of their men, unless it was some 
particular favourite, than of a hound slashed by a boar's 
tusk in the chase. 

When the first flush of his excitement had passed, Felix, 
thinking over the scene of the morning as he took his 
horses down to water at the stream, became filled at first 
with contempt, and then with indignation. That the 
first commander of the age should thus look on while the 
wall was won before his eyes, and yet never send a strong 
detachment, or move himself with his whole army to 



FIGHTING 229 

follow up the advantage, seemed past understanding. If 
he did not intend to follow it up, why permit such 
desperate ventures, which must be overwhelmed by mere 
numbers, and could result only in the loss of brave men ? 
And if he did permit it, why did he not, when he saw 
they were overthrown, send a squadron to cover their 
retreat ? To call such an exhibition of courage " a main 
of cocks," to look on it as a mere display for his amusement, 
was barbarous and cruel in the extreme. He worked 
himself up into a state of anger which rendered him less 
cautious than usual in expressing his opinions. 

The king was not nearly so much at fault as Felix, 
arguing on abstract principles, imagined. He had had 
long experience of war, and he knew its extreme uncer- 
tainty. The issue of the greatest battle often hung on 
the conduct of a single leader, or even a single man-at- 
arms. He had seen walls won and lost before. To 
follow up such a venture with a strong detachment must 
result in one of two things : either the detachment in its 
turn must be supported by the entire army, or it must 
eventually retreat. If it retreated, the loss of prestige would 
be serious, and might encourage the enemy to attack the 
camp, for it was only his prestige which prevented them. 
If supported by the entire army, then the fate of the 
whole expedition depended upon that single day. 

The enemy had the advantage of the wall, of the 
narrow streets and enclosures within, of the houses, each 
of which would become a fortress, and thus in the wind- 
ing streets a repulse might easily happen. To risk such 



230 AFTER LONDON 

an event would be folly in the last degree, before the 
town had been dispirited and discouraged by the continu- 
ance of the siege, the failure of their provisions, or the fall 
of their chief leaders in the daily combats that took place. 

The army had no discipline whatever, beyond that of 
the attachment of the retainer to his lord, and the dread 
of punishment on the part of the slave. There were no 
distinct ranks, no organised corps. The knights followed 
the greater barons, the retainers the knights ; the greater 
barons followed the king. Such an army could not be 
risked in an assault of this kind. The venture was not 
ordered, nor was it discouraged; to discourage, indeed, 
all attempts would have been bad policy ; it was upon 
the courage and bravery of his knights that the king 
depended, and upon that alone rested his hopes of victory. 
The great baron whose standard they followed would 
have sent them assistance if he had deemed it necessary. 
The king, unless on the day of battle, would not trouble 
about such a detail. As for the remark, that they had 
had " a good main of cocks that morning," he simply 
expressed the feeling of the whole camp. The spectacle 
Felix had seen was, in fact, merely an instance of the 
strength and of the weakness of the army and the 
monarch himself. 

Felix afterwards acknowledged these things to himself, 
but at the moment, full of admiration for the bravery 
of the four knights and their followers, he was full of 
indignation, and uttered his views too freely. His fellow- 
grooms cautioned him ; but his spirit was up, and he gave 



FIGHTING 231 

way to his feelings without restraint. Now, to laugh at 
the king's weaknesses, his gluttony or follies, was one 
thing; to criticise his military conduct was another. 
The one was merely badinage, and the king himself 
might have laughed had he heard it; the other was 
treason, and, moreover, likely to touch the monarch on 
the delicate matter of military reputation. 

Of this Felix quickly became aware. His mates, 
indeed, tried to shield him ; but possibly the citizen, his 
master, had enemies in the camp, barons, perhaps, to 
whom he had lent money, and who watched for a chance 
of securing his downfall. At all events, early the next 
day Felix was rudely arrested by the provost in person, 
bound with cords, and placed in the provost's booth. At 
the same time, his master was ordered to remain within, 
and a guard was put over him. 



CHAPTER XX. 

IN DANGER. 

Hope died within Felix when he thus suddenly found 
himself so near the executioner. He had known so many 
butchered without cause, that he had, indeed, reason to 
despair. Towards the sunset he felt sure he should be 
dragged forth and hanged on the oak used for the purpose, 
and which stood near where the track from Aisi joined 
the camp. Such would most probably have been his fate, 
had he been alone concerned in this affair, but by good 



232 AFTER LONDON 

fortune he was to escape so miserable an end. Still, he 
suffered as much as if the rope had finished him, for he 
had no means of knowing what would be the result. 

His heart swelled with bitterness; he was filled with 
inexpressible indignation, his whole being rebelled against 
the blundering, as it were, of events which had thus 
thrown him into the jaws of death. In an hour or two, 
however, he sufficiently recovered from the shock to 
reflect that most probably they would give him some 
chance to speak for himself. There would not be any 
trial ; who would waste time in trying so insignificant a 
wretch ? But there might be some opportunity of speak- 
ing, and he resolved to use it to the utmost possible 
extent. 

He would arraign the unskilful generalship of the king; 
he would not only point out his errors, but how the 
enemy could be defeated. He would prove that he had 
ideas and plans worthy of attention. He would, as it 
were, vindicate himself before he was executed, and he 
tried to collect his thoughts and to put them into form. 
Every moment the face of Aurora seemed to look upon 
him, lovingly and mournfully ; but beside it he saw the 
dusty and distorted features of the corpses he had seen 
drawn by the horse through the camp. Thus, too, his 
tongue would protrude and lick the dust. He endured, in 
a word, those treble agonies which the highly-wrought 
and imaginative inflict upon themselves. 

The hours passed, and still no one came near him ; he 
called, and the guard appeared at the door, but only to 



IN DANGER 233 

see what was the matter, and finding his prisoner safe, at 
once resumed his walk to and fro. The soldier did not, 
for his own sake, dare to enter into conversation with a 
prisoner under arrest for such an offence; he might be 
involved, or suspected. Had it been merely theft or any 
ordinary crime, he would have talked freely enough, and 
sympathized with his prisoner. As time went on, Felix 
grew thirsty, but his request for water was disregarded, 
and there he remained till four in the afternoon. They 
then marched him out ; he begged to be allowed to speak, 
but the soldiery did not reply, simply hurrying him 
forward. He now feared that he should be executed 
without the chance being afforded him to say a word ; 
but, to his surprise, he found in a few minutes that they 
were taking him in the direction of the king's quarters. 
New fears now seized him, for he had heard of men being 
turned loose, made to run for their lives, and hunted down 
with hounds for the amusement of the Court. 

If the citizen's wealth had made him many enemies 
(men whom he had befriended, and who hoped, if they 
could but see him executed, to escape the payment of 
their debts), on the other hand, it had made him as many 
friends ; that is, interested friends, who trusted by doing 
him service to obtain advances. These latter had lost no 
time, for greed is quite as eager as hate, and carried the 
matter at once to the king. What they desired was that 
the case should be decided by the monarch himself, and 
not by his chancellor, or a judge appointed for the purpose. 
The judge would be nearly certain to condemn the 



234 AFTER LONDON 

citizen, and to confiscate whatever he could lay hands on. 
The king might pardon, and would be content with a 
part only, where his ministers would grasp all. 

These friends succeeded in their object ; the king, who 
hated all judicial affairs because they involved the trouble 
of investigation, shrugged his shoulders at the request, and 
would not have granted it had it not come out that the 
citizen's servant had declared him to be an incapable 
commander. At this the king started. " We are, indeed, 
fallen low," said he, "when a miserable trader's knave 
calls us incapable. We will see this impudent rascal." 
He accordingly ordered that the prisoner should be brought 
before him after dinner. 

Felix was led inside the entrenchment, unbound, and 
commanded to stand upright. There was a considerable 
assembly of the greater barons anxious to see the trial of 
the money-lender, who, though present, was kept apart 
from Felix lest the two should arrange their defence. 
The king was sleeping on a couch outside the booth in 
the shade : he was lying on his back breathing loudly with 
open mouth. How different his appearance to the time 
when he sat on his splendid charger and reviewed his- 
knights ! A heavy meal had been succeeded by as heavy 
a slumber. No one dared to disturb him ; the assembly 
moved on tiptoe and conversed in whispers. The expe- 
rienced divined that the prisoners were certain to be 
condemned, for the king would wake with indigestion, 
and vent his uneasy sensations upon them. Full an hour 
elapsed before the king awoke with a snort and called for 



IN DANGER 235 

a draught of water. How Felix envied that draught ! 
He had neither eaten nor drunk since the night pre- 
vious; it was a hot day, and his tongue was dry and 
parched. 

The citizen was first accused ; he denied any treason- 
able designs or expressions whatever; as for the other 
prisoner, till the time he was arrested he did not even 
know he had been in his service. He was some stroller 
whom his grooms had incautiously engaged, the lazy 
scoundrels, to assist them. He had never even spoken to 
him; if the knave told the truth he must acknowledge 
this. 

" How now," said the king, turning to Felix ; " what 
do you say ?" 

" It is true," replied Felix, " he has never spoken to me 
nor I to him. He knew nothing of what I said. I said 
it on my own account, and I say it again !" 

" And pray, sir knave," said the king, sitting up on his 
couch, for he was surprised to hear one so meanly dressed 
speak so correctly, and so boldly face him. " What was it 
you did say ?" 

"If your majesty will order me a single drop of water," 
said the prisoner, " I will repeat it word for word, but I 
have had nothing the whole day, and I can hardly move 
my tongue." 

Without a word the king handed him the cup from 
which he had himself drunk. Never, surely, was water 
so delicious. Felix drained it to the bottom, handed it 
back (an officer took it), and with one brief thought of 



236 AFTER LONDON 

Aurora, he said : " Your majesty, you are an incapable 
commander." 

"Go on," said the king sarcastically; "why am I 
incapable ?" 

" You have attacked the wrong city ; these three are 
all your enemies, and you have attacked the first. They 
stand in a row." 

" They stand in a row," repeated the king ; " and we 
will knock them over like three nine-pins." 

" But you have begun with the end one," said Felix ; 
" and that is the mistake. For after you have taken the 
first you must take the second, and still after that the 
third. But you might have saved much trouble and 
time if " 

"If what?" 

" If you had assaulted the middle one first. For then, 
while the siege went on, you would have been able to 
prevent either of the other two towns from sending assist- 
ance, and when you had taken the first and put your 
garrison in it, neither of the others could have stirred, or 
reaped their corn, nor could they even communicate with 
each other, since you would be between them ; and, in 
fact, you would have cut your enemies in twain." 

" By St. John !" swore the king ; " it is a good idea. I 
begin to think — but go on, you have more to say." 

"I think, too, your majesty, that by staying here as 
you have done this fortnight past without action, you 
have encouraged the other two cities to make more 
desperate resistance j and it seems to me that you are in a 



IN DANGER 237 

dangerous position, and may at any moment be over- 
whelmed with disaster, for there is nothing whatever ta 
prevent either of the other two from sending troops to 
burn the open city of Aisi in your absence. And that 
danger must increase every day as they take courage by 
your idleness." 

" Idleness ! There shall be idleness no longer. The 
man speaks the truth ; we will consider further of this, 
we will move on Adelinton," turning to his barons. 

" If it please your majesty," said Baron Ingulph, " this^ 
man invented a new trigger for our carriage crossbows, 
but he was lost in the crowd, and we have sought for 
him in vain ; my serjeant here has this moment recog- 
nised him." 

"Why did you not come to us before, fellow?" said 
the king. " Let him be released ; let him be entertained 
at our expense ; give him clothes and a sword. We will 
see you further." 

Overjoyed at this sudden turn of fortune, Felix forgot 
to let well alone. He had his audience with him for a 
moment ; he could not resist as it were following up his 
victory. He thanked the king, and added that he could 
make a machine which would knock the walls yonder ta 
pieces without it being necessary to approach nearer than 
half a bow-shot, 

" What is this ?" said the king. " Ingulph, have you 
ever heard of such a machine ?" 

" There is no such thing," said the Baron, beginning 
to feel that his professional reputation as the master of 



238 AFTER LONDON 

the artillery was assailed. "There is nothing of the 
kind known." 

" It will shoot stones as big, as heavy as a man can lift," 
said Felix eagerly, " and knock towers to fragments." 

The king looked from one to another j he was in- 
credulous. The Baron smiled scornfully. "Ask him, 
your majesty, how these stones are to be thrown; no bow 
could do it." 

" How are the stones to be thrown ?" said the king 
sharply. " Beware how you play with us." 

" By the force of twisted ropes, your majesty." 

They all laughed. The Baron said : " You see, your 
majesty, there is nothing of the kind. This is some 
jester." 

" The twisted rope should be a halter," said another 
courtier, one of those who hoped for the rich man's 
downfall. 

" It can be done, your majesty," cried Felix, alarmed. 
" I assure you, a stone of two hundredweight might be 
thrown a quarter of a mile." 

The assembly did not repress its contempt. 

" The man is a fool," said the king, who now thought 
that Felix was a jester who had put a trick upon him. 
*' But your joke is out of joint ; I will teach such fellows 
to try tricks on us ! Beat him out of camp." 

The provost's men seized him, and in a moment he 
was dragged off his feet, and bodily carried outside the 
entrenchment. Thence they pushed him along, beating 
him with the butts of their spears to make him run the 



IN DANGER 239 

faster; the groups they passed laughed and jeered; the 
dogs barked and snapped at his ankles. They hurried 
him outside the camp, and thrusting him savagely with 
their spear butts sent him headlong. There they left 
him, with the caution which he did not hear, being 
insensible, that if he ventured inside the lines he would 
be at once hanged. Like a dead dog they left him on the 
ground. 

Some hours lat^r, in the dusk of the evening, Felix 
stole from the spot, skirting the forest like a wild animal 
afraid to venture from its cover, till he reached the track 
which led to Aisi. His one idea was to reach his canoe. 
He would have gone through the woods, but that was not 
possible. Without axe or wood-knife to hew a way, the 
tangled brushwood he knew to be impassable, having 
observed how thick it was when coming. Aching and 
trembling in every limb, not so much with physical 
suffering as that kind of inward fever which follows 
unmerited injury, the revolt of the mind against it, he 
followed the track as fast as his weary frame would let 
him. He had tasted nothing that day but the draught 
from the king's cup, and a second draught when he 
recovered consciousness, from the stream that flowed past 
the camp. Yet he walked steadily on without pause; 
his head hung forward, and his arms were listless, but his 
feet mechanically plodded on. He walked, indeed, by 
his will, and not with his sinews. Thus, like a ghost, 
for there was no life in him, he traversed the shadowy 
forest. 



240 AFTER LONDON 

The dawn came, and still he kept onwards. As the 
sun rose higher, having now travelled fully twenty miles, 
he saw houses on the right of the trail. They were 
evidently those of retainers or workmen employed on the 
manor, for a castle stood at some distance. 

An hour later he approached the second or open city of 
Aisi, where the ferry was across the channel. In his 
present condition he could not pass through the town. 
No one there knew of his disgrace, but it was the same 
to him as if they had. Avoiding the town itself, he 
crossed the cultivated fields, and upon arriving at the 
channel at once stepped in, and swam across to the oppo- 
site shore. It was not more than sixty yards, but, weary 
as he was, it was an exhausting effort. He sat down, but 
immediately got up and struggled on. 

The church tower on the slope of the hill was a land- 
mark by which he easily discovered the direction of the 
spot where he had hidden the canoe. But he felt unable 
to push through the belt of brushwood, reeds, and flags 
beside the shore, and therefore struck through the firs, 
following a cattle track, which doubtless led to another 
grazing ground. This ran parallel with the shore, and 
when he judged himself about level with the canoe he 
left it, and entered the wood itself. For a little way he 
could walk, but the thick fir branches soon blocked his 
progress, and he could proceed only on hands and knees, 
creeping beneath them. There was a hollow space under 
the lower branches free from brushwood. 

Thus he painfully approached the Lake, and descending 



IN DANGER 241 

the hill, after an hour's weary work emerged among the 
rushes and reeds. He was within two hundred yards of 
the canoe, for he recognised the island opposite it. In 
ten minutes he found it undisturbed and exactly as he kad 
left it, except that the breeze had strewn the dry reeds 
with which it was covered with willow leaves, yellow 
and dead (they fall while all the rest are green), which 
had been whirled from the branches. Throwing himself 
upon the reeds beside the canoe, he dropped asleep as if 
he had been dead. 

He awoke as the sun was sinking and sat up, hungry 
in the extreme, but much refreshed. There were still 
some stores in the canoe, of which he ate ravenously. 
But he felt better now ; he felt at home beside his boat. 
He could hardly believe in the reality of the hideous 
dream through which he had passed. But when he tried 
to stand, his feet, cut and blistered, only too painfully 
assured him of its reality. He took out his hunter's hide 
and cloak and spread himself a comfortable bed. Though 
he had slept so long he was still weary. He reclined in a 
semi-unconscious state, his frame slowly recovering from 
the strain it had endured, till by degrees he fell asleep 
again. Sleep, nothing but sleep, restores the overtaxed 
mind and body. 



16 



243 AFTER LONDON 

CHAPTER XXI. 

A VOYAGE. 

The sun was up when Felix awoke, and as he raised 
himself the beauty of the Lake before him filled him with 
pleasure. By the shore it was so calm that the trees were 
perfectly reflected, and the few willow leaves that had 
fallen floated without drifting one way or the other. 
Farther out the islands were lit up with the sunlight, and 
the swallows skimmed the water, following the outline 
of their shores. In the Lake beyond them, glimpses or 
which he could see through the channel or passage 
between, there was a ripple where the faint south-western 
breeze touched the surface. His mind went out to the 
beauty of it. He did not question or analyse his feelings ; 
he launched his vessel, and left that hard and tyrannical 
land for the loveliness of the water. 

Paddling out to the islands he passed through between 
them, and reached the open Lake, There he hoisted the 
sail, the gentle breeze filled it, the sharp cutwater began 
to divide the ripples, a bubbling sound arose, and steering 
due north, straight out to the open and boundless ex- 
panse, he was carried swiftly away. 

The mallards, who saw the canoe coming, at first 
scarcely moved, never thinking that a boat would venture 
outside the islands, within whose line they were accus- 
tomed to see vessels, but when the canoe continued to 
bear down upon them, they flew up and descended far 



A VOYAGE 243 

away to one side. When he had sailed past the spot 
where these birds had floated, the Lake was his own. By 
the shores of the islands the crows came down for 
mussels. Moorhens swam in and out among the rushes, 
water-rats nibbled at the flags, pikes basked at the edge 
of the weeds, summer-snipes ran along the sand, and 
doubtless an otter here and there was in concealment. 
Without the line of the shoals and islets, now that the 
mallards had flown, there was a solitude of water. It 
was far too deep for the longest weeds, nothing seemed to 
exist here. The very water-snails seek the shore, or are 
drifted by the currents into shallow corners. Neither 
great nor little care for the broad expanse. 

The canoe moved more rapidly as the wind came now 
with its full force over the distant woods and hills, and 
though it was but a light southerly breeze, the broad sail 
impelled the taper vessel swiftly. Reclining in the stern, 
Felix lost all consciousness of aught but that he was 
pleasantly borne along. His eyes were not closed, and 
he was aware of the canoe, the Lake, the sunshine, and 
the sky, and yet he was asleep. Physically awake, he 
mentally slumbered. It was rest. After the misery, 
exertion, and excitement of the last fortnight it was rest, 
intense rest for body and mind. The pressure of the 
water against the handle of the rudder-paddle, the slight 
vibration of the wood, as the bubbles rushed by beneath, 
alone perhaps kept him from really falling asleep. This 
was something which could not be left to itself; it must 
be firmly grasped, and that effort restrained his drowsiness. 

16 — 2 



244 AFTER LONDON 

Three hours passed. The shore was twelve or fifteen 
miles behind, and looked like a blue cloud, for the summer 
haze hid the hills, more than would have been the case 
in clearer weather. 

Another hour, and at last Felix, awakening from his 
slumberous condition, looked round and saw nothing but 
the waves. The shore he had left had entirely dis- 
appeared, gone down ; if there were land more lofty on 
either hand, the haze concealed it. He looked again ; he 
could scarcely comprehend it. He knew the Lake was 
very wide, but it had never occurred to him that he 
might possibly sail out of sight of land. This, then, was 
why the mariners would not quit the islands ; they feared 
the open water. He stood up and swept the horizon 
carefully, shading his eyes with his hand ; there was 
nothing but a mist at the horizon. He was alone with 
the sun, the sky, and the Lake. He could not surely 
have sailed into the ocean without knowing it ? He sat 
down, dipped his hand overboard and tasted the drops 
that adhered ; the water was pure and sweet, warm from 
the summer sunshine. 

There was not so much as a swift in the upper sky ; 
nothing but slender filaments or white cloud. No 
swallows glided over the surface of the water. If there 
were fishes he could not see them through the waves, 
which were here much larger ; sufficiently large, though 
the wind was light, to make his canoe rise and fall with 
their regular rolling. To see fishes a calm surface is 
necessary, and like other creatures, they haunt the 



A VOYAGE 245 

shallows and the shore. Never had he felt alone like this 
in the depths of the farthest forest he had penetrated. Had 
he contemplated beforehand the possibility of passing out of 
sight of land, when he found that the time had arrived he 
would probably have been alarmed and anxious for his 
safety. But thus stumbling drowsily into the solitude 
of the vast Lake, he was so astounded with his own 
discovery, so absorbed in thinking of the immense expanse, 
that the idea of danger did not occur to him. 

Another hour passed, and he now began to gaze about 
him more eagerly for some sign of land, for he had very 
little provision with him, and he did not wish to spend 
the night upon the Lake. Presently, however, the mist 
on the horizon ahead appeared to thicken, and then 
become blue, and in a shorter time than he expected land 
came in sight. This arose from the fact of its being low, 
so that he had approached nearer than he knew before 
recognising it. At the time when he was really out of 
sight of the coast, he was much farther from the hilly 
land left behind than from the low country in front, and 
not in the mathematical centre, as he had supposed, of the 
Lake. As it rose and came more into sight, he already 
began to wonder what reception he should meet with 
from the inhabitants, and whether he should find them as 
hard of heart as the people he had just escaped from. 
Should he, indeed, venture among them at all ? Or should 
he remain in the woods till he had observed more of their 
ways and manners ? These questions were being debated 
in his mind, when he perceived that the wind was falling. 



246 AFTER LONDON 

As the sun went past the meridian the breeze fell, till, 
in the hottest part of the afternoon, and when he judged 
that he was not more than eight miles from the shore, it 
sank to the merest zephyr, and the waves by degrees 
diminished. So faint became the breeze in half-an-hour's 
time, and so intermittent, that he found it patience 
wasted even to hold the rudder-paddle. The sail hung 
and was no longer bellied out; as the idle waves rolled 
under, it flapped against the mast. The heat was now so 
intolerable, the light reflected from the water increasing 
the sensation, that he was obliged to make himself some 
shelter by partly lowering the sail, and hauling the yard 
athwart the vessel, so that the canvas acted as an awning. 
Gradually the waves declined in volume, and the gentle 
breathing of the wind ebbed away, till at last the surface 
was almost still, and he could feel no perceptible air 
stirring. 

Weary of sitting in the narrow boat, he stood up, but 
he could not stretch himself sufficiently for the change to 
be of much use. The long summer day, previously so 
pleasant, now appeared scarcely endurable. Upon the 
silent water the time lingered, for there was nothing to 
mark its advance, not so much as a shadow beyond that of 
his own boat. The waves having now no crest, went 
under the canoe without chafing against it or rebound- 
ing, so that they were noiseless. No fishes rose to the 
surface. There was nothing living near, except a blue 
butterfly, which settled on the mast, having ventured thus 
for from land. The vastness of the sky, over-arching the 



A VOYAGE 247 

broad water, the sun, and the motionless filaments of 
cloud, gave no repose for his gaze, for they were seemingly 
still. To the weary glance motion is repose; the waving 
boughs, the foam-tipped waves, afford positive rest to look 
at. Such intense stillness as this of the summer sky was 
oppressive ; it was like living in space itself, in the ether 
above. He welcomed at last the gradual downward 
direction of the sun, for, as the heat decreased, he could 
work with the paddle. 

Presently he furled the sail, took his paddle, and set his 
face for the land. He laboured steadily, but made no 
apparent progress. The canoe was heavy, and the out- 
rigger or beam, which was of material use in sailing, was 
a drawback to paddling. He worked till his arms grew 
weary, and still the blue land seemed as far off as ever. 

But by the time the sun began to approach the horizon, 
his efforts had produced some effect, the shore was visible, 
and the woods beyond. They were still five miles distant, 
and he was tired ; there was little chance of his reaching 
it before night. He put his piddle down for refreshment 
and rest, and while he was thus engaged, a change took 
place. A faint puff of air came ; a second, and a third ; 
a tiny ripple ran along the surface. Now he recollected 
that he had heard that the mariners depended a great deal 
on the morning and the evening — the land and the Lake 
— breeze as they worked along the shore. This was the 
first breath of the land breeze. It freshened after awhile, 
and he re-set his sail. 

An hour or so afterwards he came near the shore; he 



248 AFTER LONDON 

heard the thrushes singing, and the cuckoo calling, long 
before he landed. He did not stay to search about for a 
creek, but ran the canoe on the strand, which was free of 
reeds or flags, a sign that the waves often beat furiously 
there, rolling as they must for so many miles. He hauled 
the canoe up as high as he could, but presently, when he 
looked about him, he found that he was on a small and 
narrow island, with a channel in the rear. Tired as he 
was, yet anxious for the safety of his canoe, he pushed off 
again, and paddled round and again beached her with the 
island between her and the open Lake. Else he feared 
if a south wind should blow she might be broken to pieces 
on the strand before his eyes. It was prudent to take the 
precaution, but, as it happened, the next day the Lake 
was still. 

He could see no traces of human occupation upon the 
island, which was of small extent and nearly bare, and 
therefore, in the morning, paddled across the channel to 
the mainland, as he thought. But, upon exploring the 
opposite shore, it proved not to be the mainland, but 
merely another island. Paddling round it, he tried again, 
but with the same result ; he found nothing but island 
after island, all narrow, and bearing nothing except 
bushes. Observing a channel which seemed to go straight 
in among these islets, he resolved to follow it, and did so 
(resting at noon-time) the whole morning. As he 
paddled slowly in, he found the water shallower, and 
weeds, bulrushes, and reeds became thick, except quite in 
the centre. 



A VOYAGE 249 

After the heat of mid-day had gone over, he resumed 
his voyage, and still found the same ; islets and banks, 
more or less covered with hawthorn bushes, w^illow, elder, 
and alder, succeeded to islets, fringed round their edges 
with reeds and reed canary-grass. When he grew weary 
of paddling, he landed and stayed the night ; the next day 
he went on again, and still for hour after hour rowed in 
and out among these banks and islets, till he began to 
think he should never find his way out. 

The farther he penetrated the more numerous became 
the waterfowl. Ducks swam among the flags, or rose 
with a rush and splashing. Coots and moorhens dived 
and hid in the reeds. The lesser grebe sank at the sound 
of the paddle like a stone. A strong northern diver 
raised a wave as he hurried away under the water, 
his course marked by the undulation above him. Sedge- 
birds chirped in the willows; black-headed buntings 
sat on the trees, and watched him without fear. Bearded 
titmice were there, clinging to the stalks of the sedges, 
and long-necked herons rose from the reedy places where 
they love to wade. Blue dragon-flies darted to and fro, 
or settled on water-plants as if they were flowers. Snakes 
swam across the channels, vibrating their heads from 
side to side. Swallows swept over his head. Pike "struck" 
from the verge of the thick weeds as he came near. Perch 
rose for insects as they fell helpless into the water. 

He noticed that the water, though so thick with reeds, 
was as clear as that in the open Lake ; there was no scum 
such as accumulates in stagnant places. From this he 



250 AFTER LONDON 

concluded that there must be a current, however sh'ght, 
perhaps from rivers flowing into this part of the Lake. 
He felt the strongest desire to explore farther till he 
reached the mainland, but he reflected that mere explora- 
tion was not his object ; it would never obtain Aurora for 
him. There were no signs whatever of human habitation, 
and from reeds and bulrushes, however interesting, nothing 
could be gained. Reluctantly, therefore, on the third 
morning, having passed the night on one of the islets, he 
turned his canoe, and paddled southwards towards the 
Lake. 

He did not for a moment attempt to retrace the channel 
by which he had entered ; it would have been an 
impossibility; he took advantage of any clear space to 
push through. It took him as long to get out as it had to 
get in ; it was the afternoon of the fourth day when he at 
last regained the coast. He rested the remainder of the 
afternoon, wishing to start fresh in the morning, having 
determined to follow the line of the shore eastwards, and 
so gradually to circumnavigate the Lake. If he succeeded 
in nothing else, that at least would be something to relate 
to Aurora. 

The morning rose fair and bright, with a south- 
westerly air rather than a breeze. He sailed before it ; it 
was so light that his progress could not have exceeded 
more than three miles an hour. Hour after hour passed 
away, and still he followed the line of the shore, now 
going a short way out to skirt an island, and now nearer 
in to pass between sandbanks. By noon he was so 



A VOYAGE 251 

weary of sitting in the canoe that he ran her ashore, and 
rested awhile. 

It was the very height of the heat of the day when he 
^et forth again, and the wind lighter than in the morning. 
It had, however, changed a little, and blew now from the 
west, almost too exactly abaft to suit his craft. He could 
not make a map while sailing, or observe his position 
accurately, but it appeared to him that the shore trended 
towards the south-east, so that he was gradually turning an 
arc. He supposed from this that he must be approaching 
the eastern end of the Lake. The water seemed shallower, 
to judge from the quantity of weeds. Now and then 
he caught glimpses between the numerous islands of the 
open Lake, and there, too, the weeds covered the surface 
in many places. 

In an hour or two the breeze increased considerably, 
and travelling so much quicker, he found it required all 
his dexterity to steer past the islands and clear the banks 
upon which he was drifting. Once or twice he grazed 
the willows that overhung the water, and heard the keel 
of the canoe drag on the bottom. As much as possible 
he bore away from the mainland, steering south-east, 
thinking to find deeper water, and to be free of the 
islets. He succeeded in the first, but the islets were 
now so numerous that he could not tell where the 
open Lake was. The farther the afternoon advanced, 
the more the breeze freshened, till occasionally, as it blew 
between the islands, it struck his mast almost with the 
force of a gale. Felix welcomed the wind, wliich would 



252 AFTER LONDON 

enable him to make great progress before evening. If 
such favouring breezes would continue, he could circum- 
navigate the waters in a comparatively short time, and 
might return to Aurora, so far, at least, successful. Hope 
filled his heart, and he sang to the wind. 

The waves could not rise among these islands, which 
intercepted them before they could roll far enough to 
gather force, so that he had all the advantage of the gale 
without its risks. Except a light haze all round the 
horizon, the sky was perfectly clear, and it was pleasant 
now the strong current of air cooled the sun's heat. As 
he came round the islands he constantly met and disturbed 
parties of waterfowl, mallards, and coots. Sometimes they 
merely hid in the weeds, sometimes they rose, and when 
they did so passed to his rear. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

DISCOVERIES. 

This little circumstance of the mallards always flying over 
him and away behind, when flushed, presently made Felix 
speculate on the cause, and he kept a closer watch. He 
now saw (what had, indeed, been going on for some time) 
that there was a ceaseless stream of waterfowl, mallards, 
ducks, coots, moorhens, and lesser grebes coming towards 
him, swimming to the westward. As they met him they 
parted and let him through, or rose and went over. Next 
he noticed that the small birds on the islands were also 



DISCOVERIES 253 

travelling in the same direction, that is, against the wind. 
They did not seem in any haste, but flitted from islet to 
islet, bush to tree, feeding and gossiping as they went; 
still the movement was distinct. 

Finches, linnets, blackbirds, thrushes, wrens, and white- 
throats, and many others, all passed him, and he could see 
the same thing going on to his right and left. Felix 
became much interested in this migration, all the more 
singular as it was the nesting-time, and hundreds of these 
birds must have left their nests with eggs or young behind 
them. Nothing that he could think of offered an adequate 
explanation. He imagined he saw shoals of fishes going 
the same way, but the surface of the water being ruffled, 
and the canoe sailing rapidly, he could not be certain. 
About an hour after he first observed the migration the 
stream of birds ceased suddenly. 

There were no waterfowls in the water, and no finches 
in the bushes. They had evidently all passed. Those 
in the van of the migratory army were no doubt scattered 
and thinly distributed, so that he had been meeting the 
flocks a long while before he suspected it. The nearer 
he approached their centre the thicker they became, and 
on getting through that he found solitude. The weeds 
were thicker than ever, so that he had constantly to edge 
away from where he supposed the mainland to lie. But 
there were no waterfowls and no birds on the islets. 
Suddenly, as he rounded a large island, he saw what for the 
moment he imagined to be a line of white surf, but the 
next instant he recognised a solid mass, as it were, of 



254 AFTER LONDON 

swallows and martins flying just over the surface of the 
water straight towards him. He had no time to notice 
how far they extended before they had gone by him with 
a rushing sound. Turning to look back, he saw them 
continue directly west in the teeth of the wind. 

Like the water and the islands, the sky was now 
cleared of birds, and not a swallow remained. Felix 
asked himself if he were running into some unknown 
danger, but he could not conceive any. The only thing 
that occurred to him was the possibility of the wind 
rising to a hurricane ; that gave him no alarm, because 
the numerous islands would afford shelter. So complete 
was the shelter in some places, that as he passed along his 
sail drew above, while the surface of the water, almost 
surrounded with bushes and willows, was smooth. No 
matter to how many quarters of the compass the wind 
might veer, he should still be able to get under the lee or 
one or other of the banks. 

The sky remained without clouds; there was nothing 
but a slight haze, which he sometimes fancied looked 
thicker in front, or to the eastward. There was nothing 
whatever to cause the least uneasiness ; on the contrary, 
his curiosity was aroused, and he was desirous of discover- 
ing what it was that had startled the birds. After a 
while the water became rather more open, with sand- 
banks instead of islands, so that he could see around him 
for a considerable distance. By a large bank, behind 
which the ripple was stilled, he saw a low wave advancing 
towards him, and moving against the wind. It was 



DISCOVERIES 255 

followed by two others at short intervals, and though he 
could not see them, he had no doubt shoals of fishes were 
passing, and had raised the undulations. 

The sedges on the sandbanks appeared brown and 
withered, as if it had been autumn instead of early 
summer. The flags were brown at the tip, and the 
aquatic grasses had dwindled. They looked as if they 
could not grow, and had reached but half their natural 
height. From the low willows the leaves were dropping, 
faded and yellow, and the thorn bushes were shrivelled 
and covered with the white cocoons of caterpillars. The 
farther he sailed the more desolate the banks seemed, and 
trees ceased altogether. Even the willows were fewer 
and stunted, and the highest thorn bush was not above 
his chest. His vessel was now more exposed to the wind, 
so that he drove past the banks and scattered islands 
rapidly, and he noticed that there was not so much as a 
crow on them. Upturned mussel-shells, glittering in the 
sunshine, showed where crows had been at work, but 
there was not one now visible. 

Felix thought the water had lost its clearness and had 
become thick, which he put down to the action of the 
wavelets disturbing the sand in the shallows. Ahead the 
haze, or mist, was now much thicker, and was appar- 
ently not over a mile distant. It hid the islands and 
concealed everything. He expected to enter it imme- 
diately, but it receded as he approached. Along the 
strand of an island he passed there was a dark line like a 
stain, and in still water under the lee the surface was 



256 AFTER LONDON 

covered with a floating scum. Felix, on seeing this, at 
once concluded that he had unknowingly entered a gulf, 
and had left the main Lake, for the only place he had 
ever seen scum before was at the extremity of a creek 
near home, where the water was partly stagnant on a 
marshy level. The water of the Lake was proverbial for 
its purity and clearness. 

He kept, therefore, a sharp look-out, expecting every 
moment to sight the end of the gulf or creek in which he 
supposed himself sailing, so that he might be ready to 
lower his sail. By degrees the wind had risen till it now 
blew with fury, but the numerous sandflats so broke up 
the waves that he found no inconvenience from them. 
One solitary gull passed over at a great height, flying 
steadily westwards against the wind. The canoe now 
began to overtake fragments of scum drifting before the 
wind, and rising up and down on the ripples. Once he 
saw a broad piece rise to the surface together with a 
quantity of bubbles. None of the sandbanks now rose 
more than a foot or so above the surface, and were 
entirely bare, mere sand and gravel. 

The mist ahead was sensibly nearer, and yet it eluded 
him ; it was of a faint yellow, and though so thin, 
obscured everything where it hovered. From out of the 
mist there presently appeared a vast stretch of weeds. 
They floated on the surface and undulated to the wavelets, 
a pale, yellowish-green expanse. Felix was hesitating 
whether to lower his sail or attempt to drive over them, 
when, as he advanced and the mist retreated, he saw 



DISCOVERIES 257 

open water beyond. The weeds extended on either hand 
as far as he could see, but they were only a narrow band, 
and he hesitated no longer. He felt the canoe graze the 
bottom once as he sailed over the weeds. The water 
was free of sandbanks beyond them, but he could see 
large islands looming in several directions. 

Glancing behind him, he perceived that the faint yellow 
mist had closed in and now encircled him. It came 
within two or three hundred yards, and was not affected 
by the wind, rough as it was. Quite suddenly he noticed 
that the water on which the canoe floated was black. 
The wavelets which rolled alongside were black, and the 
slight spray that occasionally flew on board v/as black, 
and stained the side of the vessel. This greatly aston- 
ished and almost shocked him; it was so opposite and 
contrary to all his ideas about the Lake, the very mirror 
of purity. He leant over, and dipped up a little in the 
ralm of his hand ; it did not appear black in such a small 
quantity, it seemed a rusty brown, but he became aware 
of an offensive odour. The odour clung to his hand, and 
he could not remove it, to his great disgust. It was like 
nothing he had ever smelt before, and not in the least like 
the vapour of marshes. 

By now, being some distance from any island, the 
wavelets increased in size, and spray flew on board, 
wetting everything with this black liquid. Instead of 
level marshes at the end of the gulf, it appeared as if ttic 
water were deep, and also as if it widened. Exposed to 
the full press of the gale, Felix began to fear that he 

17 



258 AFTER LONDON 

should not be able to return very easily against it. He 
did not know what to do. The horrid blackness of the 
wate: disposed him to turn about and tack out; on the 
other hand, having set out on a voyage of discovery, and 
having now found something different to the other parts 
of the Lake, he did not like to retreat. He sailed on, 
thinking to presently pass these loathsome waters. 

He was now hungry, and indeed thirsty, but was 
unable to drink because he had no water-barrel. No 
vessel sailing on the Lake ever carried a water-barrel, 
since such pure water was always under their bows. He 
was cramped, too, with long sitting in the canoe, and the 
sun was perceptibly sloping in the west. He determined 
to land and rest, and with this purpose steered to the 
right, under the lee of a large island, so large, indeed, that 
he was not certain it was not part of the mainland or one 
side of the gulf. The water was deep close up to the 
shore, but, to his annoyance, the strand appeared black, 
as if soaked with the dark water. He skirted along some- 
what farther, and found a ledge of low rocks stretching 
out into the Lake, so that he was obliged to run ashore 
before coming to these. 

On landing, the black strand, to his relief, was fairly 
firm, for he had dreaded sinking to the knees in it ; but 
its appearance was so unpleasant that he could not bring 
himself to sit down. He walked on towards the ledge of 
rocks, thinking to find a pleasanter place there. They 
were stratified, and he stepped on them to climb up, when 
his foot went deep into the apparently hard rock. He 



DISCOVERIES 259 

kicked it, and his shoe penetrated it as if it had been soft 
sand. It was impossible to ch'mb up the reef. The 
ground rose inland, and curious to see around him as far 
as possible, he ascended the slope. 

From the summit, however, he could not see farther 
than on the shore, for the pale yellow mist rose up round 
him, and hid the canoe on the strand. The extreme 
desolation of the dark and barren ground repelled him ; 
there was not a tree, bush, or living creature ; not so much 
as a buzzing fly. He turned to go down, and then for 
the first time noticed that the disk of the sun was 
surrounded with a faint blue rim, apparently caused by the 
yellow vapour. So much were the rays shorn of their 
glare, that he could look at the sun without any distress, 
but its heat seemed to have increased, though it was now 
late in the afternoon. 

Descending towards the canoe, he fancied the wind had 
veered considerably. He sat down in the boat, and took 
some food ; it was without relish, as he had nothing to 
drink, and the great heat had tired him. Wearily, and 
without thinking, he pushed off the canoe ; she slowly 
floated out, when, as he was about to hoist up the sail, a 
tremendous gust of wind struck him down on the thwarts, 
and nearly carried him overboard. He caught the mast 
as he fell, or over he must have gone into the black waves. 
Before he could recover himself, she drifted against the 
ledge of rocks, which broke down and sank before the 
blow, so that she passed over uninjured. 

Felix got out a paddle, and directed the canoe as well 

17 — 2 



26o AFTER LONDON 

as he could ; the fury of the wind was irresistible, and he 
could only drive before it. In a few minutes, as he was- 
swept along the shore, he was carried between it and 
another immense reef. Here, the waves being broken 
and less powerful, he contrived to get the heavy canoe 
ashore again, and, jumping out, dragged her up as far as he 
could on the land. When he had done this, he found to 
his surprise that the gale had ceased. The tremendous 
burst of wind had been succeeded by a perfect calm, and 
the waves had already lost their violent impetus. 

This was a relief, for he had feared that the canoe 
would be utterly broken to pieces ; but soon he began to 
doubt if it were an unmixed benefit, as without a wind he 
could not move from this dismal place that evening. He 
was too weary to paddle far. He sat on the canoe to rest 
himself, and, whether from fatigue or other causes, fell 
asleep. His head heavily drooping on his chest partly 
woke him several times, but his lassitude overcame the 
discomfort, and he slept on. When he got up he felt 
dazed and unrefreshed, as if sleeping had been hard work. 
He was extremely thirsty, and oppressed with the 
increasing heat. The sun had sunk, or rather was so low 
that the high ground hid it from sight. 



STRANGE THINGS 261 

CHAPTER XXIII. 

STRANGE THINGS. 

The thought struck Felix that perhaps he might find a 
spring somewhere in the island, and he started at once up 
over the hill. At the top he paused. The sun had not 
«unk, but had disappeared as a disk. In its place was a 
billow of blood, for so it looked, a vast upheaved billow of 
glowing blood surging on the horizon. Over it flickered , 
a tint of palest blue, like that seen in fire. The black 
waters reflected the glow, and the yellow vapour around 
was suffused with it. Though momentarily startled, Felix 
did not much heed these appearances ; he was still dazed 
and heavy from his sleep. 

He went on, looking for a spring, sometimes walking 
on firm ground, sometimes sinking to the ankle in a 
friable soil like black sand. The ground looked, indeed, 
as if it had been burnt, but there were no charred stumps 
of timber such as he had seen on the sites of forest fires. 
The extreme dreariness seemed to oppress his spirits, and 
he went on and on in a heavy waking dream. Descend- 
ing into a plain, he lost sight of the flaming sunset and 
the black waters. In the level plain the desolation was 
yet more marked ; there was not a grass-blade or plant ; 
the surface was hard, black, and burned, resembling iron, 
and indeed in places it resounded to his feet, though he 
supposed that was the echo from hollow passages beneath. 

Several times he shook himself, straightened himself up, 



362 AFTER LONDON 

and endeavoured to throw off the sense of drowsy weight 
which increased upon him. He could not do so; he 
walked with bent back, and crept, as it were, over the 
iron land, which radiated heat. A shimmer like that of 
water appeared in front ; he quickened his pace, but could 
not get to it, and he realized presently that it was a 
mirage, which receded as he advanced. There was no 
pleasant summer twilight; the sunset was succeeded by an 
indefinite gloom, and while this shadow hung overhead the 
yellow vapour around was faintly radiant. Felix suddenly 
stopped, having stepped, as he thought, on a skeleton. 

Another glance, however, showed that it was merely 
the impression of one, the actual bones had long since 
disappeared. The ribs, the skull, and limbs were drawn 
on the black ground in white lines as if it had been done 
with a broad piece of chalk. Close by he found three or 
four more, intertangled and superimposed as if the un- 
happy beings had fallen partly across each other, and in 
that position had mouldered away, leaving nothing but 
their outline. From among a variety of objects that were 
scattered about Felix picked up something that shone ; it 
was a diamond bracelet of one large stone, and a small 
square of blue china-tile with a curious heraldic animal 
drawn on it. Evidently these had belonged to one or 
other of the party who had perished. 

Though startled at the first sight, it was curious 
that Felix felt so little horror ; the idea did not occur to 
hkn that he was in danger as these had been. Inhaling 
the gaseous emanations from the soil and contained in the 



STRANGE THINGS 263 

yellow vapour, he had become narcotised, and moved as 
if under the influence of opium, while wide awake, and 
capable of rational conduct. His senses were deadened, 
and did not carry the usual vivid impression to the mind ; 
he saw things as if they were afar off. Accidentally look- 
ing back, he found that his footmarks, as far as he could 
see, shone with a phosphoric light like that of " touch- 
wood " in the dark. Near at hand they did not shine ; 
the appearance did not come till some few minutes had 
elapsed. His track was visible behind till the vapour hid 
it. As the evening drew on the vapour became more 
luminous, and somewhat resembled an aurora. 

Still anxious for water, he proceeded as straight ahead 
as he could, and shortly became conscious of an indefinite 
cloud which kept pace with him on either side. When 
he turned to look at either of the clouds, the one looked 
at disappeared. It was not condensed enough to be visible 
to direct vision, yet he was aware of it from the corner 
of his eye. Shapeless and threatening, the gloomy thick- 
ness of the air ,floated beside him like the vague monster 
of a dream. Sometimes he fancied that he saw an arm 
or a limb among the folds of the cloud, or an approach 
to a face ; the instant he looked it vanished. Marching 
at each hand, these vapours bore him horrible company. 

His brain became unsteady, and flickering things moved 
about him; yet, though alarmed, he was not afraid; his 
senses were not acute enough for fear. The heat in- 
creased ; his hands were intolerably hot, as if he had been 
in a fever ; he panted, but did not perspire. A dry heat 



264 AFTER LONDON 

like an oven burned his blood in his veins. His head felt 
enlarged, and his eyes seemed alight ; he could see these two 
globes of phosphoric light under his brows. They seemed 
to stand out so that he could see them. He thought his 
path straight, it was really curved ; nor did he know that 
he staggered as he walked. 

Presently a white object appeared ahead, and on 
coming to it, he found it was a wall, white as snow, with 
some kind of crystal. He touched it, when the wall fell 
immediately, with a crushing sound as if pulverized, and 
disappeared in a vast cavern at his feet. Beyond this 
chasm he came to more walls like those of houses, such 
as would be left if the roofs fell in. He carefully avoided 
touching them, for they seemed as brittle as glass, and 
merely a white powder having no consistency at all. As 
he advanced these remnants of buildings increased in 
number, so that he had to wind in and out and round 
them. In some places the crystallised wall had fallen of 
itself, and he could see down into the cavern ; for the 
house had either been built partly underground, or, which 
was more probable, the ground had risen. Whether the 
walls had been of bricks or stone or other material he 
could not tell ; they were now like salt. 

Soon wearying of winding round these walls, Felix 
returned and retraced his steps till he was outside the 
place, and then went on towards the left. Not long 
after, as he still walked in a dream and without feeling 
his feet, he descended a slight slope and found the ground 
change in colour from black to a dull red. In his dazed 



STRANGE THINGS 265 

state he had taken several steps out into this red before he 
noticed that it was liquid, unctuous and slimy, like a thick 
oil. It deepened rapidly and was already over his shoes ; 
he returned to the black shore and stood looking out over 
the water, if such it could be called. 

The luminous yellow vapour had now risen a height of 
ten or fifteen feet, and formed a roof both over the land 
and over the red water, under which it was possible to see 
for a great distance. The surface of the red oil or viscid 
liquid was perfectly smooth, and, indeed, it did not seem 
as if any wind could rouse a wave on it, much less that 
a swell should be left after the gale had gone down. 
Disappointed in his search for water to drink, Felix 
mechanically turned to go back. 

He followed his luminous footmarks, which he could 
see a long way before him. His trail curved so much 
that he made many short cuts across the winding line he 
had left. His weariness was now so intense that all 
feeling had departed. His feet, his limbs, his arms, and 
hands were numbed. The subtle poison of the emana- 
tions from the earth had begun to deaden his nerves. It 
seemed a full hour or more to him till he reached the spot 
where the skeletons were drawn in white upon the ground. 

He passed a few yards to one side of them, and stumbled 
over a heap of something which he did not observe, as it 
was black, like the level ground. It emitted a metallic 
sound, and looking he saw that he had kicked his foot 
against a great heap of money. The coins were black as 
ink; he picked up a handful and went on. Hitherto 



266 AFTER LONDON 

Felix had accepted all that he saw as something so strange 
as to be unaccountable. During his advance into this 
region in the canoe he had in fact become slowly stupefied 
by the poisonous vapour he had inhaled. His mind was 
partly in abeyance ; it acted, but only after some time had 
elapsed. He now at last began to realize his position ; 
the finding of the heap of blackened money touched a 
chord of memory. These skeletons were the miserable 
relics of men who had ventured, in search of ancient 
treasures, into the deadly marshes over the site of the 
mightiest city of former days. The deserted and utterly 
extinct city of London was under his feet. 

He had penetrated into the midst of that dreadful 
place, of which he had heard many a tradition : how the 
earth was poison, the water poison, the air poison, the 
very light of heaven, falling through such an atmosphere, 
poison. There were said to be places where the earth 
was on fire and belched forth sulphurous fumes, supposed 
to be from the combustion of the enormous stores of 
strange and unknown chemicals collected by the won- 
derful people of those times. Upon the surface of the 
water there was a greenish-yellow oil, to touch which 
was death to any creature; it was the very essence of 
corruption. Sometimes it floated before the wind, and 
fragments became attached to reeds or flags far from the 
place itself. If a moorhen or duck chanced to rub the 
reed, and but one drop stuck to its feathers, it forthwith 
died. Of the red waters he had not heard, nor of the 
black, into which he had unwittingly sailed. 



STRANGE THINGS 267 

Ghastly beings haunted the site of so many crimes, 
shapeless monsters, hovering by night, and weaving a 
fearful dance. Frequently they caught fire, as it seemed, 
and burned as they flevir or floated in the air. Remem- 
bering these stories, w^hich in part, at least, seemed now 
to be true, Felix glanced aside, where the cloud still kept 
pace with him, and involuntarily put his hands to his ears 
lest the darkness of the air should whisper some horror of 
old times. The earth on which he walked, the black 
earth, leaving phosphoric footmarks behind him, was 
composed of the mouldered bodies of millions of men who 
had passed away in the centuries during which the city 
existed. He shuddered as he moved; he hastened, yet 
could not go fast, his numbed limbs would not permit him. 

He dreaded lest he should fall and sleep, and wake no 
more, like the searchers after treasure; treasure which 
they had found only to lose for ever. He looked around, 
supposing that he might see the gleaming head and 
shoulders of the half-buried giant, of which he recollected 
he had been told. The giant was punished for some 
crime by being buried to the chest in the earth ; fire 
incessantly consumed his head and played about it, yet it 
was not destroyed. The learned thought, if such a thing 
really existed, that it must be the upper part of an 
ancient brazen statue, kept bright by the action of acid in 
the atmosphere, and shining with reflected light. Felix 
did not see it, and shortly afterwards surmounted the hill, 
and looked down upon his canoe. It was on fire ! 



268 AFTER LONDON 

CHAPTER XXIV. 

FIERY VAPOURS. 

Felix tried to run, but his feet would not rise from 
the ground ; his limbs were numb as in a nightmare; 
he could not get there. His body would not obey his 
will. In reality he did move, but more slowly than when 
he walked. By degrees approaching the canoe, his alarm 
subsided, for although it burned it was not injured ; the 
canvas of the sail was not even scorched. Wiien he got 
to it the flames had disappeared ; like Jack-o'-the-lantern, 
the phosphoric fire receded from him. With ail his 
strength he strove to launch her, yet paused, for over the 
surface of the black water, now smooth and waveless, 
played immense curling flames, stretching out like endless 
serpents, weaving, winding, rolling over each other. Sud- 
denly they contracted into a ball, which shone with a 
steady light, and was as large as the full moon. The ball 
swept along, rose a little, and from it flew out long 
streamers, till it was unwound in fiery threads. 

But remembering that the flames had not even scorched 
the canvas, he pushed the canoe afloat, determined at any 
risk to leave this dreadful place. To his joy he felt a 
faint air rising ; it cooled his forehead, but was not enough 
to fill the sail. He paddled with all the strength he had 
left. The air seemed to come from exactly the opposite 
direction to what it had previously blown, some point of 
east he supposed. Labour as hard as he would, the canoe 



FIERY VAPOURS 269 

moved slowly, being so heavy. It seemed as if the black 
water was thick and clung to her, retarding motion. 
Still, he did move, and in time (it seemed, indeed, a time) he 
left the island, which disappeared in the luminous vapours. 
Uncertain as to the direction, he got his compass, but it 
would not act ; the needle had no life, it swung and came 
to rest, pointing any way as it chanced. It was de- 
magnetised. Felix resolved to trust to the wind, which 
he was certain blew from the opposite quarter, and would 
therefore carry him out. The stars he could not see for 
the vapour, which formed a roof above him. 

The wind was rising, but in uncertain gusts ; however,, 
he hoisted the sail, and floated slowly before it. Nothing 
Hut excitement could have kept him awake. Reclining 
m the canoe, he watched the serpent-like flames playing 
over the surface, and forced himself by sheer power of 
will not to sleep. The two dark clouds which had ac- 
companied him to the shore now faded away, and the 
cooling wind enabled him to bear up better against his 
parching thirst. His hope was to reach the clear and 
beautiful Lake ; his dread that in the uncertain light he 
might strike a concealed sandbank and become firmly 
fixed. 

Twice he passed islands, distinguishable as masses 
of visible darkness. While the twisted flames played up to 
the shore, and the luminous vapour overhung the ground, 
the island itself appeared as a black mass. The wind 
became by degrees steadier, and the canoe shot swiftly 
over the water. His hopes rose; he sat up and kept a 



270 AFTER LONDON 

keener look-out ahead. All at once the canoe shook as if 
she had struck a rock. She vibrated from one end to the 
other, and stopped for a moment in her course. Felix 
sprang up alarmed. At the same instant a bellowing 
noise reached him, succeeded by a frightful belching and 
roaring, as if a volcano had burst forth under the surface 
of the water ; he looked back but could see nothing. The 
canoe had not touched ground ; she sailed as rapidly as 
before. 

Again the shock, and again the hideous roaring, as if 
some force beneath the water were forcing itself up, vast 
bubbles rising and bursting. Fortunately it was at a 
great distance. Hardly was it silent before it was 
reiterated for the third time. Next Felix felt the canoe 
heave up, and he was aware that a large roller had passed 
under him. A second and a third followed. They 
were without crests, and were not raised by the wind ; 
they obviously started from the scene of the disturbance. 
Soon afterwards the canoe moved quicker, and he de- 
tected a strong current setting in the direction he was 
sailing. 

The noise did not recur, nor did any more rollers pass 
under. Felix felt better and less dazed, but his weariness 
and sleepiness increased every moment. He fancied that 
the serpent flames were less brilliant or farther apart, and 
that the luminous vapour was thinner. How long he sat at 
the rudder he could not tell ; he noticed that it seemed 
to grow darker, the serpent flames faded away, and the 
Iviminous vapour was succeeded by something like the 



FIERY VAPOURS 271 

fjatural gloom of night. At last he saw a star overhead, 
and hailed it with joy. He thought of Aurora j the next 
instant he fell back in the canoe firm asleep. 

His arm, however, still retained the rudder-paddle in 
position, so that the canoe sped on with equal swiftness. 
She would have struck more than one of the sandbanks 
and islets had it not been for the strong current that was 
running. Instead of carrying her against the banks this 
warded her oflF, for it drew her between the islets in the 
channels where it ran fastest, and the undertow, where it 
struck the shore, bore her back from the land. Driving 
before the wind, the canoe swept onward steadily to the 
west. In an hour it had passed the line of the black 
water, and entered the sweet Lake. Another hour and 
all trace of the marshes had utterly disappeared, the last 
faint glow of the vapour had vanished. The dawn of the 
coming summer's day appeared, and the sky became a 
lovely azure. The canoe sailed on, but Felix remained 
immovable in slumber. 

Long since the strong current had ceased, it scarcely 
extended into the sweet waters, and the wind only 
impelled the canoe. As the sun rose the breeze gradually 
fell away, and in an hour or so there was only a light air. 
The canoe had left most of the islets and was approaching 
the open Lake when, as she passed almost the last, the yard 
caught the overhanging branch of a willow, the canoe 
swung round and grounded gently under the shadow of 
the tree. For some time the little wavelets beat against 
the side of the boat j gradually they ceased, and the clear 



27a AFTER LONDON 

and beautiful water became still. Felix slept till nearly 
noon, when he awoke and sat up. At the sudden move- 
ment a pike struck, and two moorhens scuttled out of the 
water into the grass on the shore. A thrush was singing 
sweetly, whitethroats were busy in the bushes, and 
swallows swept by overhead. 

Felix drew a long, deep breath of intense relief; it was 
like awaking in Paradise. He snatched up a cup, dipped, 
and satisfied his craving thirst, then washed his hands 
over the side, and threw the water over his face. But 
when he came to stand up and move, he found that his 
limbs were almost powerless. Like a child he tottered, 
his joints had no strength, his legs tingled as if they had 
been benumbed. He was so weak he crawled on all fours 
along to the mast, furled the sail kneeling, and dragged 
himself rather than stepped ashore with the painter. The 
instant he had fastened the rope to a branch, he threw 
himself at full length on the grass, and grasped a handful 
of it. Merely to touch the grass after such an experience 
was intense delight. 

The song of the thrush, the chatter of the whitethroats, 
the sight of a hedge-sparrow, gave him inexpressible 
pleasure. Lying on the sward, he watched the curves 
traced by the swallows in the sky. From the sedges 
came the curious cry of the moorhen ; a bright kingfisher 
went by. He rested as he had never rested before. His 
whole body, his whole being was resigned to rest. It was 
fully two hours before he rose and crept on all fours into 
the canoe for food. There was only sufficient left for 



FIERY VAPOURS 273 

one meal, but that gave him no concern now he was out 
of the marshes ; he could fish and use his crossbow. 

He now observed what had escaped him during the 
night, the canoe was black from end to end. Stem, stern, 
gunwale, thwart, outrigger, mast and sail were black. 
The stain did not come off on being touched, it seemed 
burnt in. As he leaned over the side to dip water, and 
saw his reflection, he started ; his face was black, his 
clothes were black ; his hair black. In his eagerness to 
drink, the first time, he had noticed nothing. His hands 
were less dark; contact with the paddle and ropes had 
partly rubbed it off, he supposed. He washed, but the 
water did not materially diminish the discoloration. 

After eating, he returned to the grass and rested again ; 
and it was not till the sun was sinking that he felt any 
return of vigour. Still weak, but able now to walk, lean- 
ing on a stick, he began to make a camp for the coming 
night. But a few scraps, the remnant of his former meal, 
were left ; on these he supped after a fashion, and long 
before the white owl began his rounds Felix was fast 
asleep on his hunter's hide from the canoe. He found 
next morning that the island was small, only a few acres ; 
it was well-wooded, dry, and sandy in places. He had 
little inclination or strength to resume his expedition ; he 
erected a booth of branches, and resolved to stay a few 
days till his strength returned. 

By shooting wildfowl, and fishing, he fared very well, 
and soon recovered. In two days the discoloration of the 
skin had faded to an olive tint, which, too, grew fainter. 

18 



274 AFTER LONDON 

The canoe lost its blackness, and became a rusty colour. 
By rubbing the coins he had carried away he found they 
were gold ; part of the inscription remained, but he could 
not read it. The blue china-tile was less injured than the 
metal ; after washing it, it was bright. But the diamond 
pleased him most; it would be a splendid present 
for Aurora. Never had he seen anything like it in the 
palaces ; he believed it was twice the size of the largest 
possessed by any king or prince. 

It was as big as his finger-nail, and shone and gleamed 
in the sunlight, sparkling and reflecting the beams. Its 
value must be very great. But well he knew how 
dangerous it would be to exhibit it ; on some pretext or 
other he would be thrown into prison, and the gem 
seized. It must be hidden with the greatest care till he 
could produce it in Thyma Castle, when the Baron 
would protect it. Felix regretted now that he had not 
searched further; perhaps he might have found other 
treasures for Aurora; the next instant he repudiated his 
greed, and was only thankful that he had escaped with his 
life. He wondered and marvelled that he had done so, it 
was so well known that almost all who had ventured in 
had perished. 

Reflecting on the circumstances which had accompanied 
his entrance to the marshes, the migration of the birds 
seemed almost the most singular. They were evidently 
flying from some apprehended danger, and that most 
probably would be in the air. The gale at that time, 
however, was blowing in a direction which would appear 



FIERY VAPOURS 275 

to ensure safety to them ; into, and not out of, the 
poisonous marshes. Did they, then, foresee that it would 
change ? Did they expect it to veer like a cyclone and 
presently blow east with the same vigour as it then blew 
west? That would carry the vapour from the inky 
waters out over the sweet Lake, and might even cause 
the foul water itself to temporarily encroach on the 
sweet. The more he thought of it, the more he felt 
convinced that this was the explanation ; and, as a fact, the 
wind, after dropping, did arise again and blow from the 
east, though, as it happened, not with nearly the same 
strength. It fell, too, before long, fortunately for him. 
Clearly the birds had anticipated a cyclone, and that the 
wind, turning, would carry the gases out upon them to 
their destruction. They had therefore hurried away, and 
the fishes had done the same. 

The velocity of the gale which had carried him into the 
black waters had proved his safety, by driving before it the 
thicker and most poisonous portion of the vapour, com- 
pressing it towards the east, so that he had entered the 
dreaded precincts under favourable conditions. When it 
dropped, while he was on the black island, he soon began 
to feel the effect of the gases rising imperceptibly from the 
soil, and had he not had the good fortune to escape so 
soon, no doubt he would have fallen a victim. He could 
not congratulate himself sufficiently upon his good fortune. 
The other circumstances appeared to be due to the decay of 
the ancient city, to the decomposition of accumulated 
matter, to phosphorescence and gaseous exhalations. The 

18—2 



276 AFTER LONDON 

black rocks that crumbled at a touch were doubtless the 
remains of ancient buildings saturated with the dark water 
and vapours. Inland, similar remains were white, and 
resembled salt. 

But the great explosions which occurred as he was 
leaving, and which sent heavy rollers after him, were not 
easily understood, till he remembered that in Sylvester's 
" Book of Natural Things " it was related that " the 
ancient city had been undermined with vast conduits, 
sewers, and tunnels, and that these communicated with 
the sea." It had been much disputed whether the sea did 
or did not still send its tides up to the site of the old 
qtiays. Felix now thought that the explosions were due 
to compressed air, or more probably to gases met with by 
the ascending tide. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

THE SHEPHERDS. 

For four days Felix remained on the island recovering 
his strength. By degrees the memory of the scenes he 
had witnessed grew less vivid, and his nerves regained 
their tone. The fifth morning he sailed again, making 
due south with a gentle breeze from the west, which 
suited the canoe very well. He considered that he was 
now at the eastern extremity of the Lake, and that by 
sailing south he should presently reach the place where 
the shore turned to the east again. The sharp prow of 



THE SHEPHERDS 277 

the canoe cut swiftly through the waves, a light spray 
flew occasionally in his face, and the wind blew pleasantly. 
In the cloudless sky swallows and swifts were wheeling, 
and on the water half a dozen mallards moved aside to 
let him pass. 

About two hours after he started he encountered a mist, 
which came softly over the surface of the water with the 
wind, and in an instant shut out all view. Even the sun 
was scarcel)'^ visible. It was very warm, and left no 
moisture. In five minutes he passed through and emerged 
again in the bright sunlight. These dry, warm mists are 
frequently seen on the Lake in summer, and are believed 
to portend a continuance of fine weather. 

Felix kept a good distance from the mainland, which 
was hilly and wooded, and with few islands. Presently 
he observed in the extreme distance, on his right hand, a 
line of mountainous hills, which he supposed to be the 
southern shore of the Lake, and that he was sailing into a 
gulf or bay. He debated with himself whether he should 
alter his course and work across to the mountains, or con- 
tinue to trace the shore. Unless he did trace the shore, 
he could scarcely say that he had circumnavigated the 
Lake, as he would leave this great bay unexplored. He 
continued, therefore, to sail directly south. 

The wind freshened towards noon, and the canoe flew 
at a great pace. Twice he passed through similar mists. 
There were now no islands at all, but a line of low chalk 
clifis marked the shore. Considering that it must be 
deep, and safe to do so, Felix bore in closer to look at the 



278 AFTER LONDON 

land. Woods ran along the hills right to the verge of 
the clifF, but he saw no signs of inhabitants, no smoke, 
boat, or house. The sound of the surf beating on the 
beach was audible, though the waves were not large. 
Over the cliff he noticed a kite soaring, with forked tail, 
at a great height. 

Immediately afterwards he ran into another mist or 
vapour, thicker, if anything, and which quite obscured 
his view. It seemed like a great cloud on the surface of 
the water, and broader than those he had previously 
entered. Suddenly the canoe stopped with a tremendous 
jerk, which pitched him forward on his knees, the mast 
cracked, and there was a noise of splitting wood. As 
soon as he could get up, Felix saw, to his bitter sorrow, 
that the canoe had split longitudinally; the water came 
up through the split, and the boat was held together only 
by the beams of the outrigger. He had run aground on 
a large sharp flint imbedded in a chalk floor, which had 
split the poplar wood of the canoe like an axe. The 
voyage was over, for the least strain would cause the canoe 
to part in two, and if she were washed off the ground she 
would be waterlogged. In half a minute the mist passed, 
leaving him in the bright day, shipwrecked. 

Felix now saw that the waters were white with sus- 
pended chalk, and sounding with the paddle, found that 
the depth was but a few inches. He had driven at full 
speed on a reef. There was no danger, for the distance 
to the shore was hardly two hundred yards, and judging 
by the appearance of the water, it was shallow all the 



THE SHEPHERDS 279 

way. But his canoe, the product of so much labour, and 
in which he had voyaged so far, his canoe was destroyed. 
He could not repair her; he doubted whether it could 
have been done successfully even at home, with Oliver to 
help him. He could sail no farther ; there was nothing 
for it but to get ashore and travel on foot. If the wind 
rose higher, the waves would soon break clean over her, 
and she would go to pieces. 

With a heavy heart, Felix took his paddle and stepped 
overboard. Feeling with the paddle, he plumbed the 
depth in front of him, and, as he expected, walked all the 
way to the shore, no deeper than his knees. This was 
fortunate, as it enabled him to convey his things to land 
without loss. He wrapped up the tools and manuscripts 
in one of his hunter's hides. When the whole cargo was 
landed, he sat down sorrowfully at the foot of the cliffy 
and looked out at the broken mast and sail, still flapping 
uselessly in the breeze. 

It was a long time before he recovered himself, and set 
to work, mechanically, to bury the crossbow, hunter's 
hides, tools, and manuscripts, under a heap of pebbles. 
As the clifF, though low, was perpendicular, he could not 
scale it, else he would have preferred to conceal them in 
the woods above. To pile pebbles over them was the 
best he could do for the present ; he intended to return 
for them when he discovered a path up the clifF. He 
then started, taking only his bow and arrows. 

But no such path was to be found ; he walked on and 
on till weary, and still the clifF ran like a wall on his left 



28o AFTER LONDON 

hand. After an hour's rest, he started again ; and, as the 
sun was declining, came suddenly to a gap in the clifiF, 
where a grassy sward came down to the shore. It was 
now too late, and he was too weary, to think of returning 
for his things that evening. He made a scanty meal, and 
endeavoured to rest. But the excitement of losing the 
canoe, the long march since, the lack of good food, all 
tended to render him restless. Weary, he could not rest, 
nor move farther. The time passed slowly, the sun 
sank, the wind ceased ; after an interminable time the 
stars appeared, and still he could not sleep. He had 
chosen a spot under an oak on the green slope. The 
night was warm, and even sultry, so that he did not miss 
his covering, but there was no rest in him. Towards the 
dawn, which comes very early at that season, he at last 
slept, with his back to the tree. He awoke with a start 
in broad daylight, to see a man standing in front of him 
armed with a long spear. 

Felix sprang to his feet, instinctively feeling for his 
hunting-knife ; but he saw in an instant that no injury 
was meant, for the man was leaning on the shaft of his 
weapon, and, of course, could, if so he had wished, have 
run him through while sleeping. They looked at each 
other for a moment. The stranger was clad in a tunic, 
and wore a hat of plaited straw. He was very tall and 
strongly built ; his single weapon, a spear of twice his own 
length. His beard came down on his chest. He spoke 
to Felix in a dialect the latter did not understand. Felix 
held out his hand as a token of amity, which the other 



THE SHEPHERDS 281 

took. He spoke again. Felix, on his part, tried to 
explain his shipwreck, when a word the stranger uttered 
recalled to Felix's memory the peculiar dialect used by 
the shepherd race on the hills in the neighbourhood of his 
home. 

He spoke in this dialect, which the stranger in part at 
least understood, and the sound of which at once rendered 
him more friendly. By degrees they comprehended each 
other's meaning the easier, as the shepherd had come the 
same way and had seen the wreck of the canoe. Felix 
learned that the shepherd was a scout sent on ahead to 
see that the road was clear of enemies. His tribe were 
on the march with their flocks, and to avoid the steep 
woods and hills which there blocked their course, they 
had followed the level and open beach at the foot of the 
clifF, aware, of course, of the gap which Felix had found. 
While they were talking, Felix saw the cloud of dust 
raised by the sheep as the flocks wound round a jutting 
buttress of clifF. 

His friend explained that they marched in the night 
and early morning to avoid the heat of the day. Their 
proposed halting-place was close at hand ; he must go on 
and see that all was clear. Felix accompanied him, and 
found within the wood at the summit a grassy coombe, 
where a spring rose. The shepherd threw down his 
spear, and began to dam up the channel of the spring with 
stones, flints, and sods of earth, in order to form a pool at 
which the sheep might drink. Felix assisted him, and 
the water speedily began to rise. 



282 AFTER LONDON 

The flocks were not allowed to rush tumultuously to 
the water; they came in about fifty at a time, each 
division with its shepherds and their dogs, so that con- 
fusion was avoided and all had their share. There were 
about twenty of these divisions, besides eighty cows and a 
few goats. They had no horses ; their baggage came on 
the backs of asses. 

After the whole of the flocks and herds had been 
watered several fires were lit by the women, who in 
stature and hardihood scarcely differed from the men. 
Not till this work was over did the others gather about 
Felix to hear his story. Finding that he was hungry, 
they ran to the baggage for food, and pressed on him a 
little dark bread, plentiful cheese and butter, dried tongue, 
and horns of mead. He could not devour a fiftieth part 
of what these hospitable people brought him. Having 
nothing else to give them, he took from his pocket one of 
the gold coins he had brought from the site of the ancient 
city, and offered it. 

They laughed, and made him understand that it was of 
no value to them ; but they passed it from hand to hand, 
and he noticed that they began to look at him curiously. 
From its blackened appearance they conjectured whence 
he had obtained it ; one, too, pointed to his shoes, which 
were still blackened, and appeared to have been scorched. 
The whole camp now pressed on him, their wonder and 
interest rising to a great height. With some trouble 
Felix described his journey over the site of the ancient 
city, interrupted with constant exclamations, questions. 



THE SHEPHERDS 283 

and excited conversation. He told them everything, 
except about the diamond. 

Their manner towards him perceptibly altered. From 
the first they had been hospitable; they now became 
respectful, and even reverent. The elders and their 
chief, not to be distinguished by dress or ornament from 
the rest, treated him with ceremony and marked deference. 
The children were brought to see and even to touch 
him. So great was their amazement that anyone should 
have escaped from these pestilential vapours, that they 
attributed it to divine interposition, and looked upon him 
with some of the awe of superstition. He was asked to 
stay with them altogether, and to take command of the 
tribe. 

The latter Felix declined; to stay with them for 
awhile, at least, he was, of course, willing enough. He 
mentioned his hidden possessions, and got up to return 
for them, but they would not permit him. Two men 
started at once. He gave them the bearings of the spot, 
and they had not the least doubt but that they should find 
it, especially as, the wind being still, the canoe would 
not yet have broken up, and would guide them. The 
tribe remained in the green coombe the whole day, resting 
from their long journey. They wearied Felix with 
questions, still he answered them as copiously as he could ; 
he felt too grateful for their kindness not to satisfy them. 
His bow was handled, his arrows carried about so that 
the quiver for the time was empty, and the arrows 
scattered in twenty hands. He astonished them by 



284 AFTER LONDON 

exhibiting his skill with the weapon, striking a tree with 
an arrow at nearly three hundred yards. 

Though familiar, of course, with the bow, they had 
never seen shooting like that, nor, indeed, any archery 
except at short quarters. They had no other arms them- 
selves but spears and knives. Seeing one of the women 
cutting the boughs from a fallen tree, dead and dry, and, 
therefore, preferable for fuel, Felix naturally went to help 
her, and, taking the axe, soon made a bundle, which he 
carried for her. It was his duty as a noble to see that no 
woman, not a slave, laboured ; he had been bred in that 
idea, and would have felt disgraced had he permitted it. 
The women looked on with astonishment, for in these 
rude tribes the labour of the women was considered 
valuable and appraised like that of a horse. 

Without any conscious design, Felix thus in one day 
conciliated and won the regard of the two most powerful 
parties in the camp, the chief and the women. By his 
refusing the command the chief was flattered, and his 
possible hostility prevented. The act of cutting the 
wood and carrying the bundle gave him the hearts of the 
women. They did not, indeed, think their labour in 
any degree oppressive ; still, to be relieved of it was 
pleasing. 

The two men who had gone for Felix's buried treasure 
did not return till breakfast next morning. They stepped 
into the camp, each with his spear reddened and dripping 
with fresh blood. Felix no sooner saw the blood than he 
fainted. He quickly recovered, but he could not endure 



THE SHEPHERDS 285 

the sight of the spears, which were removed and liidden 
from his view. He had seen blood enough spilt at the 
siege of Iwis, but this came upon him in all its horror, 
unrelieved by the excitement of war. 

The two shepherds had been dogged by gipsies, and 
had been obliged to make a round to escape. They took 
their revenge by climbing into trees, and as their pursuers 
passed under thrust them through with their long spears. 
The shepherds, like all their related tribes, had been at 
feud with the gipsies for many generations. The gipsies 
followed them to and from their pastures, cut off stragglers, 
destroyed or stole their sheep and cattle, and now and 
then overwhelmed a whole tribe. Of late the contest 
had become more sanguinary and almost ceaseless. 

Mounted on swift, though small, horses, the gipsies had 
the advantage of the shepherds. On the other hand, the 
shepherds, being men of great stature and strength, could 
not be carried away by a rush if they had time to form a 
circle, as was their custom of battle. They lost many 
men by the javelins thrown by the gipsies, who rode up 
to the edge of the circle, cast their darts, and retreated. 
If the shepherds left their circle they were easily ridden 
over ; while they maintained formation they lost indi- 
viduals, but saved the mass. Battles were of rare 
occurrence ; the gipsies watched for opportunities and 
executed raids, the shepherds retaliated, and thus the 
endless war continued. The shepherds invariably posted 
sentinels, and sent forward scouts to ascertain if the way 
were clear. Accustomed to the horrid scenes of war from 



5j86 AFTER LONDON 

childhood, they could not understand Felix's sensitive- 
ness. 

They laughed, and then petted him like a spoilt child. 
This galled him exceedingly ; he felt humiliated, and 
eager to reassert his manhood. He was willing to stay 
with them before for awhile, nothing would have induced 
him to leave them now till he had vindicated himself in 
their sight. The incident happened soon after sunrise, 
which is very early at the end of June. The camp had 
only waited for the return of these men, and on their 
appearance began to move. The march that morning 
was not a long one, as the sky was clear and the heat 
soon wearied the flocks. Felix accompanied the scout in 
advance, armed with his bow, eager to encounter the 
gipsies. 

CHAPTER XXVI. 

BOW AND ARROW. 

Three mornings the shepherds marched in the same 
manner, when they came in view of a range of hills, so 
high, that to Felix they appeared mountains. The home 
of the tribe was in these hills, and once there they were 
comparatively safe from attack. In early spring, when 
the herbage on the downs was scarce, the flocks moved to 
the meadowlike lands far in the valleys ; in summer they 
returned to the hills ; in autumn they went to the vales 
again. Soon after noon on the third day the scouts 
reported that a large body of gipsies were moving in a 



BOW AND ARROW 287 

direction which would cut off their course to the hills on 
the morrow. 

The chief held a council, and it was determined that a 
forced march should be made at once by another route, 
more to the left, and it was thought that in this way they 
might reach the base of the slopes by evening. The 
distance was not great, and could easily have been 
traversed by the men ; the flocks and herds, however, 
could not be hurried much. A messenger was despatched 
to the hills for assistance, and the march began. It was a 
tedious movement. Felix was wearied, and walked in a 
drowsy state. Towards six o'clock, as he guessed, the 
trees began to thin, and the column reached the first 
slopes of the hills. Here about thirty shepherds joined 
them, a contingent from the nearest camp. It was con- 
sidered that the danger was now past, and that the gipsies 
would not attack them on the hill ; but it was a mistake. 

A large body almost immediately appeared, coming 
along the slope on the right, not less than two hundred ; 
and from their open movements and numbers it was 
evident that they intended battle. The flocks and herds 
were driven hastily into a coombe, or narrow valley, and 
there left to their fate. All the armed men formed in a 
circle ; the women occupied the centre. Felix took his 
stand outside the circle by a gnarled and decayed oak. 
There was just there a slight rise in the ground, which he 
knew would give him some advantage in discharging his 
arrows, and would also allow him a clear view. His 
friends earnestly entreated him to enter the circle, and 



288 AFTER LONDON 

even sought to bring him within it by force, till he 
explained to them that he could not shoot if so surrounded, 
and promised if the gipsies charged to rush inside. 

Felix unslung his quiver, and placed it on the ground 
before him ; a second quiver he put beside it ; four or 
five arrows he stuck upright in the sward, so that he could 
catch hold of them quickly ; two arrows he held in his 
left hand, another he fitted to the string. Thus prepared, 
he watched the gipsies advance. They came walking 
their short wiry horses to within half a mile, when they 
began to trot down the slope ; they could not surround 
the shepherds because of the steep-sided coombe and some 
brushwood, and could advance only on two fronts. Felix 
rapidly became so excited that his sight was affected, and 
his head whirled. His heart beat with such speed that 
his breath seemed going. His limbs tottered, and he 
dreaded lest he should faint. 

His intensely nervous organization, strung up to its 
highest pitch, shook him in its grasp, and his will was 
powerless to control it. He felt that he should disgrace 
himself once more before these rugged but brave shepherds, 
who betrayed not the slightest symptom of agitation. For 
one hour of Oliver's calm courage and utter absence of 
nervousness he would have given years of his life. His 
friends in the circle observed his agitation, and renewed 
their entreaties to him to come inside it. This only was 
needed to complete his discomfiture. He lost his head 
altogether ; he saw nothing but a confused mass of 
yellow and red rushing towards him, for each of the 



BOW AND ARROW 289 

gipsies wore a yellow or red scarf, some about the body, 
some over the shoulder, others round the head. They 
were now within three hundred yards. 

A murmur from the shepherd spearmen. Felix had 
discharged an arrow. It stuck in the ground about 
twenty paces from him. He shot again ; it flew wild 
and quivering, and dropped harmlessly. Another murmur j 
they expressed to each other their contempt for the bow. 
This immediately restored Felix ; he forgot the enemy as 
an enemy, he forgot himself ; he thought only of his skill 
as an archer, now in question. Pride upheld him. The 
third arrow he fitted properly to the string, he planted his 
left foot slightly in advance, and looked steadfastly at the 
horsemen before he drew his bow. 

At a distance of one hundred and fifty yards they had 
paused, and were widening out so as to advance in loose 
open rank and allow each man to throw his javelin. 
They shouted; the spearmen in the circle replied, and 
levelled their spears. Felix fixed his eye on one of the 
gipsies who was ordering and marshalling the rest, a chief. 
He drew the arrow swiftly but quietly, the string hummed, 
the pliant yew obeyed, and the long arrow shot forward 
in a steady, swift flight like a line of gossamer drawn 
through the air. It missed the chief, but pierced the 
horse he rode just in front of the rider's thigh. The 
maddened horse reared and fell backwards on his rider. 

The spearmen shouted. Before the sound could leave 
their lips another arrow had sped ; a gipsy threw up his 
arms with a shriek; the arrow had gone through his 

19 



290 AFTER LONDON 

body. A third, a fourth, a fifth — six gipsies rolled on the 
sward. Shout upon shout rent the air from the spearmen. 
Utterly unused to this mode of fighting, the gipsies fell 
back. Still the fatal arrows pursued them, and ere they 
were out of range three others fell. Now the rage of 
battle burned in Felix; his eyes gleamed, his lips were 
open, his nostrils wide like a horse running a race. 
He shouted to the spearmen to follow him, and snatching 
up his quiver ran forward. Gathered together in a group, 
the gipsy band consulted. 

Felix ran at full speed ; swift of foot, he left the heavy 
spearmen behind. Alone he approached the horsemen; 
all the Aquila courage was up within him. He kept the 
higher ground as he ran, and stopped suddenly on a little 
knoll or tumulus. His arrow flew, a gipsy fell. Again, 
and a third. Their anger gave them fresd courage; to 
be repulsed by one only ! Twenty of them started to 
charge and run him down. The keen arrows flew faster 
than their horses' feet. Now the horse and now the 
man met those sharp points. Six fell ; the rest returned. 
The shepherds came running ; Felix ordered them to 
charge the gipsies. His success gave him authority; 
they obeyed ; and as they charged, he shot nine more 
arrows; nine more deadly wounds. Suddenly the gipsy 
band turned and fled into the brushwood on the lower 
slopes. 

Breathless, Felix sat down on the knoll, and the spear- 
men swarmed around him. Hardly had they begun to 
speak to him than there was a shout, and they saw a body 



BOW AND ARROW 291 

of shepherds descending the hill. There were three 
hundred of them ; warned by the messenger, the whole 
country had risen to repel the gipsies. Too late to join 
in the fight, they had seen the last of it. They examined 
the field. There were ten dead and six wounded, who 
were taken prisoners ; the rest escaped, though hurt. In 
many cases the arrows had gone clean through the body. 
Then, for the first time, they understood the immense 
power of the yew bow in strong and skilful hands. 

Felix was overwhelmed ; they almost crushed him with 
their attentions; the women fell at his feet and kissed 
them. But the archer could scarcely reply ; his intense 
nervous excitement had left him weak and almost faint ; 
his one idea was to rest. As he walked back to the 
camp between the chiefs of the shepherd spearmen, 
his eyes closed, his limbs tottered, and they had to 
support him. At the camp he threw himself on the 
sward, under the gnarled oak, and was instantly fast 
asleep. Immediately the camp was stilled, not to disturb 
him. 

His adventures in the marshes of the buried city, his 
canoe, his archery, were talked of the livelong night. 
Next morning the camp set out for their home in the 
mountains, and he was escorted by nearly four hundred 
spearmen. They had saved for him the ornaments of the 
gipsies who had fallen, golden earrings and nose-rings. He 
gave them to the women, except one, a finger-ring, set 
with turquoise, and evidently of ancient make, which he 
kept for Aurora. Two marches brought them to the 

19 — 2 



292 AFTER LONDON 

home of the tribe, where the rest of the spearmen left 
them. The place was called Wolfstead. 

Felix saw at once how easily this spot might be fortified. 
There was a deep and narrow valley like a groove or green 
trench opening to the south. At the upper end of the 
valley rose a hill, not very high, but steep, narrow at the 
ridge, and steep again on the other side. Over it was a 
broad, wooded, and beautiful vale ; beyond that again the 
higher mountains. Towards the foot of the narrow ridge 
here, there was a succession of chalk cliffs, so that to climb 
up on that side in the face of opposition would be extremely 
difficult. In the gorge of the enclosed narrow valley a 
spring rose. The shepherds had formed eight pools, one 
after the other, water being of great importance to them ; 
and farther down, where the valley opened, there were 
forty or fifty acres of irrigated meadow. The spring 
then ran into a considerable brook, across which was the 
forest. 

Felix's idea was to run a palisade along the margin of the 
brook, and up both sides of the valley to the ridge. There 
he would build a fort. The edges of the chalk cliffs h(r 
would connect with a palisade or a wall, and so form v. 
complete enclosure. He mentioned his scheme to the 
shepherds j they did not greatly care for it, as they had 
always been secure without it, the rugged nature of the 
country not permitting horsemen to penetrate. But they 
were so completely under his influence that to please him 
they set about the work. He had to show them how to 
make a palisade ; they had never seen one, and he made 



BOW AND ARROW 293 

the first part of it himself. At building a wall with loose 
stones, without mortar, the shepherds were skilful; the 
wall along the verge of the cliffs was soon up, and so was 
the fort on the top of the ridge. The fort consisted 
merely of a circular wall, breast high, with embrasures or 
crenellations. 

When this was finished, Felix had a sense of master- 
ship, for in this fort he felt as if he could rule the whole 
country. From day to day shepherds came from the 
more distant parts to see the famous archer, and to admire 
the enclosure. Though the idea of it had never occurred 
to them, now they saw it they fully understood its ad- 
vantages, and two other chiefs began to erect similar forts 
and palisades. 

CHAPTER XXVII. 

SURPRISED. 

Felix was now anxious to continue his journey, yet he 
did not like to leave the shepherds, with whom his life 
was so pleasant. As usual, when deliberating, he wandered 
about the hills, and thus into the forest. The shepherds 
at first insisted on at least two of their number accom- 
panying him ; they were fearful lest the gipsies should 
seize him, or a Bushman assassinate him. This company 
was irksome to Felix. In time he convinced them that 
he was a much better hunter than any of the tribe, and they 
permitted him to roam alone. During one of these 
excursions into the forest he discovered a beautiful lake. 



294 AFTER LONDON 

He looked down on the water from the summit of one of 
the green mountains. 

It was, he thought, half a mile across, and the opposite 
shore was open woodland, grassy and meadow-like, and 
dotted with fine old oaks. By degrees these closed 
together, and the forest succeeded ; beyond it again, at a 
distance of two miles, were green hills. A little clearing 
only was wanted to make the place fit for a castle 
and enclosure. Through the grass - land opposite he 
traced the course of a large brook down to the lake; 
another entered it on the right, and the lake gradually 
narrowed to a river on his left. Could he erect a tower 
there, and bring Aurora to it, how happy he would be ! 
A more beautiful spot he had never seen, nor one more 
suited for every purpose of life. 

He followed the course of the stream which left the 
lake, every now and then disturbing wild goats from the 
clifiFs, and twice he saw deer under the oaks across it. On 
rounding a spur of down, he saw that the river debouched 
into a much wider lake, which he conjectured must be the 
Sweet Waters. He went on till he reached the mouth of 
the river, and had then no doubt that he was standing 
once more on the shore of the Sweet Water sea. On 
this, the southern side, the banks were low ; on the other, 
a steep chalky cliff almost overhung the river, and jutted 
out into the lake, curving somewhat towards him. A fort 
on that cliff would command the entrance to the river; 
the cliff was a natural breakwater, so that there was a 
haven at its base. The river appeared broad and deep 



SURPRISED 295 

enough tor navigation, so that vessels could pass from the 
great Lake to the inland water ; about six or seven miles, 
he supposed. 

Felix was much taken with this spot; the beauty of 
the inland lake, the evident richness of the soil, the river 
communicating with the great Lake, the clifF commanding 
its entrance ; never, in all his wanderings, had he seen a 
district so well suited for a settlement and the founding of 
a city. If he had but a thousand men ! How soon he 
would bring Aurora there, and build a tower, and erect a 
palisade ! So occupied was he with the thought that he 
returned the whole distance to the spot where he had 
made the discovery. There he remained a long time, 
designing it all in his mind. 

The tower he would build yonder, three-quarters of a 
mile, perhaps a mile, inland from the opposite shore, on a 
green knoll, at the base of which the brook flowed. It 
would be even more pleasant there than on the shore ot 
the lake. The forest he would clear back a little, and put 
up a stout palisade, enclosing at least three miles of grassy 
land. By the shore of the lake he would build his town, 
so that his vessels might be able to go forth into the great 
Sweet Water sea. So strongly did imagination hold him 
that he did not observe how near it was to sunset, nor did 
he remark the threatening aspect of the sky. Thunder 
awoke him from his dream ; he looked, and saw a storm 
rapidly coming from the north-east. 

He descended the hill, and sheltered himself as well as 
possible among some thick fir-trees. After the lightning, 



296 AFTER LONDON 

the rain poured so heavily that it penetrated the branches, 
and he unstrung his bow and placed the string in his 
pocket, that it might not become wet. Instantly there 
was a whoop on either side, and two gipsies darted from 
the undergrowth towards him. While the terrible bow 
was bent they had followed him, tracking his footsteps ; 
the moment he unstrung the bow, they rushed out. Felix 
crushed through between the firs, by main force getting 
through, but only opening a passage for them to follow. 
They could easily have thrust their darts through him, but 
their object was to take him alive, and gratify the revenge 
of the tribes with torture. 

Felix doubled from the firs, and made towards the far- 
distant camp ; but he was faced by three more gipsies. 
He turned again and made for the steep hill he had 
descended. With all his strength he raced up it; his 
lightness of foot carried him in advance, and he reached 
the summit a hundred yards ahead ; but he kjiew he 
must be overtaken presently, unless he could hit upon 
some stratagem. In the instant that he paused to breathe 
on the summit a thought struck him. Like the wind he 
raced along the ridge, making for the great Sweet Water, 
the same path he had followed in the morning. Once 
on the ridge the five pursuers shouted ; they knew they 
should have him now there were no more liills to breast. 
It was not so easy as they imagined. 

Felix was in splendid training ; he kept his lead, and 
even drew a little on them. Still, he knew in time he 
must succumb, just as the stag, though swifter of foot, 



SURPRISED 297 

ultimately succumbs to the hounds. They would track 
him till they had him. If only he could gain enough to 
have time to string and bend his bow ! But with all his 
efforts he could not get away more than the hundred 
yards, and that was not far enough. It could be traversed 
in ten seconds, they would have him before he could 
string it and fit an arrow. If only he had been fresh as 
in the morning ! But he had had a long walk during the 
day and not much food. He knew that his burst of 
speed must soon slacken, but he had a stratagem yet. 

Keeping along the ridge till he reached the place where 
the lake narrowed to the river, suddenly he rushed down 
the hill towards the water. The edge was encumbered 
with brushwood and fallen trees ; he scrambled over and 
through anyhow ; he tore a path through the bushes and 
plunged in. But his jacket caught in a branch ; he had 
his knife out and cut off the shred of cloth. Then with 
the bow and knife in one hand he struck out for the 
opposite shore. His hope was that the gipsies, being 
horsemen, and passing all their lives on their horses, might 
not know how to swim. His conjecture was right; they 
stopped on the brink, and yelled their loudest. When he 
had passed the middle of the slow stream their rage rose 
to a shriek, startling a heron far down the water. 

Felix reached the opposite shore in safety, but the 
bow-string was now wet and useless. He struck off at 
once straight across the grass-lands, past the oaks he had 
admired, past the green knoll where in imagination he 
had built his castle and brought Aurora, through the 



298 AFTER LONDON 

brook, which he found was larger than it appeared at a 
distance, and required two or three strokes to cross. A 
few more paces and the forest sheltered him. Under the 
trees he rested, and considered what course to pursue. 
The gipsies would expect him to endeavour to regain his 
friends, and would watch to cut off his return. Felix 
determined to make, instead, for another camp farther 
east, and to get even there by a detour. 

Bitterly he reproached himself for his folly in leaving 
the camp, knowing that gipsies were about, with no 
other weapon than the bow. The knife at his belt was 
practically no weapon at all, useful only in the last 
extremity. Had he had a short sword, or javelin, he 
would have faced the two gipsies who first sprang towards 
him. Worse than this was the folly of wandering with- 
out the least precaution into a territory at that time full 
of gipsies, who had every reason to desire his capture. If 
he had used the ordinary precautions of woodcraft, he 
would have noticed their traces, and he would not have 
exposed himself in full view on the ridges of the hills, 
where a man was visible for miles. If he perished 
through his carelessness, how bitter it would be ! To 
lose Aurora by the merest folly would, indeed, be 
humiliating. 

. He braced himself to the journey before him, and set 
oflF at a good swinging hunter's pace, as it is called, that 
is, a pace rather more than a walk and less than a run, 
with the limbs somewhat bent, and long springy steps. 
The forest was in the worst possible condition for move- 



SURPRISED 299 

ment; the rain had damped the fern and undergrowth, 
and every branch showered raindrops upon him. It was 
now past sunset and the dusk was increasing; this he 
welcomed as hiding him. He travelled on till nearly 
dawn, and then, turning to the right, swept round, and 
regained the line of the mountainous hills after sunrise. 
There he rested, and reached a camp about nine in the 
morning, having walked altogether since the preceding 
morning fully fifty miles. This camp was about fifteen 
miles from that of his friends ; the shepherds knew him, 
and one of them started with the news of his safety. In 
the afternoon ten of his friends came over to see him, and 
to reproach him. 

His weariness was so great that for three days he 
scarcely moved from the hut, during which time the 
weather was wet and stormy, as is often the case in 
summer after a thunderstorm. On the fourth morning 
it was fine, and Felix, now quite restored to his usual 
strength, went out with the shepherds. He found some 
of them engaged in throwing up a heap of stones, flint, 
and chalk lumps near an oak-tree in a plain at the foot of 
the hill. They told him that during the thunderstorm 
two cows and ten sheep had been killed there by lightning, 
which had scarcely injured the oak. 

It was their custom to pile up a heap of stones wherever 
such an event occurred, to warn others from staying 
themselves, or allowing their sheep or cattle to stay, near 
the spot in thunder, as it was observed that where 
lightning struck once it was sure to strike again, sooner or 



300 AFTER LONDON 

later. "Then," said Felix, "you may be sure there is 
water there !" He knew from his study of the know- 
ledge of the ancients that lightning frequently leaped 
from trees or buildings to concealed water, but he had no 
intention of indicating water in that particular spot. He 
meant the remark in a general sense. 

But the shepherds, ever desirous of water, and looking 
on Felix as a being of a different order to themselves, 
took his casual observation in its literal sense. They 
brought their tools and dug, and, as it chanced, found a 
copious spring. The water gushed forth and formed a 
streamlet. Upon this the whole tribe gathered, and they 
saluted Felix as one almost divine. It was in vain that 
he endeavoured to repel this homage, and to explain the 
reason of his remark, and that it was only in a general 
way that he intended it. Facts were too strong for him. 
They had heard his words, which they considered an 
inspiration, and there was the water. It was no use; 
there was the spring, the very thing they most wanted. 
Perforce Felix was invested with attributes beyond 
nature. 

The report spread ; his own old friends came in a 
crowd to see the new spring, others journeyed from afar. 
In a week, Felix having meanwhile returned to Wolfstead, 
his fame had for the second time spread all over the district. 
Some came a hundred miles to see him. Nothing he could 
say was listened to ; these simple, straightforward people 
understood nothing but facts, and the defeat of the gipsies 
and the discovery of the spring seemed to them little less 



SURPRISED 301 

than supernatural. Besides which, in innumerable little 
ways Felix's superior knowledge had told upon them. 
His very manners spoke of high training. His persuasive 
voice won them. His constructive skill and power of 
planning, as shown in the palisades and enclosure, showed 
a grasp of circumstances new to them. This was a man 
such as they had never before seen. 

They began to bring him disputes to settle ; he shrank 
from this position of judge, but it was useless to struggle ; 
they would wait as long as he liked, but his decision they 
would have, and no other. Next came the sick begging 
to be cured. Here Felix was firm ; he would not attempt 
to be a physician, and they went away. But, unfortu- 
nately, it happened that he let out his knowledge of plants, 
and back they came. Felix did not know what course to 
pursue ; if by chance he did anyone good, crowds would 
beset him; if injury resulted, perhaps he would be as- 
sassinated. This fear was quite unfounded ; he really 
had not the smallest idea how high he stood in their 
estimation. 

After much consideration, Felix hit upon a method 
which would save him from many inconveniences. He 
annoimced his intention of forming a herb-garden in 
which to grow the best kind of herbs, and at the same 
time said he would not administer any medicine himself, 
but would tell their own native physicians and nurses 
all he knew, so that they could use his knowledge. The 
herb-garden was at once begun in the valley ; it could not 
contain much till next year, and meantime if any diseased 



30t AFTER LONDON 

persons came Felix saw them, expressed his opinion to the 
old shepherd who was the doctor of the tribe, and the 
latter carried out his instructions. Felix did succeed in 
relieving some small ailments, and thereby added to his 
reputation. 

CHAPTER XXVIII. 

FOR AURORA. 

Felix now began to find out for himself the ancient truth, 
that difficulties always confront man. Success only changes 
them, and increases their number. Difficulties faced 
him in every direction ; at home it had seemed impossible 
for him to do anything. Now that success seemed to 
smile on him and he had become a power, instead ot 
everything being smooth and easy, new difficulties sprang 
up for solution at every point. He wished to continue 
his journey, but he feared that he would not be permitted 
to depart. He would have to start away in the night, in 
which case he could hardly return to them again, and yet 
he wished to return to these, the first friends he had had, 
and amongst whom he hoped to found a city. 

Another week slipped away, and Felix was meditating 
his escape, when one afternoon a deputation of ten spear- 
men arrived from a distant tribe, who had nominated him 
their king, and sent their principal men to convey the in- 
telligence. Fame is always greatest at a distance, and 
this tribe in the mountains of the east had actually chosen 
him as king, and declared that they would obey him 



FOR AURORA 303 

whether he took up his residence with them or not. Felix 
was naturally greatly pleased ; how delighted Aurora 
would be ! but he was in perplexity what to do, for he 
coixld not tell whether the Wolfstead people would be 
favourably inclined or would resent his selection. 

He had not long to consider. There was an assembly 
of the tribe, and they, too, chose him by common consent 
as their king. Secretly they were annoyed that another 
tribe had been more forward than themselves, and were 
anxious that Felix should not leave them. Felix declined 
the honour ; in spite of his refusal, he was treated as if he 
were the most despotic monarch. Four days afterwards 
two other tribes joined the movement, and sent their ac- 
ceptance of him as their monarch. Others followed, and 
so quickly now that a day never passed without another 
tribe sending a deputation. 

Felix thought deeply on the matter. He was, of course, 
flattered, and ready to accept the dignity, but he was alive 
to considerations of policy. He resolved that he would 
not use the title, nor exercise the functions, of a king as 
usually understood. He explained his plan to the chiefs ; 
it was that he should be called simply "Leader," the 
Leader of the War; that he should only assume royal 
authority in time of war ; that the present chiefs should 
retain their authority, and each govern as before, in 
accordance with ancient custom. He proposed to be 
king only during war-time. He would, if they liked, 
write out their laws for them in a book, and so give their 
customs cohesion and shape. To this plan the tribes 



304 AFTER LONDON 

readily agreed ; it retained all the former customs, it left 
the chiefs their simple patriarchal authority, and it gave 
all of them the advantage of combination in war. As the 
Leader, Felix was henceforth known. 

In the course of a fortnight, upwards of six thousand 
men had joined the Confederacy, and Felix wrote down 
the names of twenty tribes on a sheet of parchment which 
he took from his chest. A hut had long since been built 
for him ; but he received all the deputations, and held the 
assemblies which were necessary, in the circular fort. He 
was so pressed to visit the tribes that he could not refuse 
to go to the nearest, and thus his journey was again post- 
poned. During this progress from tribal camp to tribal 
camp, Felix gained the adhesion of twelve more, making 
a total of thirty-two names of camps, representing about 
eight thousand spearmen. With pride, Felix reflected that 
he commanded a far larger army than the Prince of Ponze. 
But he was not happy. 

Months had now elapsed since he had parted from 
Aurora. There were no means of communicating with 
her. A letter could be conveyed only by a special 
messenger ; he could not get a messenger, and even if one 
had been forthcoming, he could not instruct him how to 
reach Thyma Castle. He did not know himself; the 
country was entirely unexplored. Except that the direc- 
tion was west, he had no knowledge whatever. He had 
often inquired of the shepherds, but they were perfectly 
ignorant. Anker's Gate was the most westerly of all 
their settlements, which chiefly extended eastwards. 



FOR AURORA 



305 



Beyond Anker's Gate was the trackless forest, of which 
none but the Bushmen knew anything. They did not 
understand what he meant by a map ; all they could tell 
him was that the range of mountainous hills continued 
westerly and southerly for an unascertained distance, and 
that the country was uninhabited except by wandering 
gipsy tribes. 

South was the sea, the salt water ; but they never went 
down to it, or near it, because there was no sustenance for 
their flocks and herds. Till now, Felix did not know that 
he was near the sea ; he resolved at once to visit it. As 
nearly as he could discover, the great fresh-water Lake 
did not reach any farther south ; Wolfstead was not far 
from its southern margin. He concluded, therefore, that 
the shore of the Lake must run continually westward, and 
that if he followed it he should ultimately reach the very 
creek from which he had started in the canoe. How far 
it was he could not reckon. 

There were none of the shepherds who could be sent 
with a letter ; they were not hunters, and were unused 
to woodcraft ; there was not one capable of the journey. 
Unless he went himself he could not communicate with 
Aurora. Two routes were open to him ; one straight 
through the forest on foot, the other by water, which 
latter entailed the construction of another canoe. Journey 
by water, too, he had found was subject to unforeseen 
risks. Till he could train some of the younger men to 
row a galley, he decided not to attempt the voyage. 
There was but the forest route left, and that he resolved 

20 



3o6 AFTER LONDON 

to attempt ; but when ? And how, without offending 
his friends ? 

Meantime, while he revolved the subject in his mind, 
he visited the river and the shore or the great Lake, this 
time accompanied by ten spears. The second visit only- 
increased his admiration of the place and his desire to 
take possession or it. He ascended a tall larch, from 
whose boughs he had a view out over the Lake ; the 
shore seemed to go almost directly west. There were no 
islands, and no land in sight ; the water was open and 
clear. Next day he started for the sea ; he wished to see 
it for its own sake, and, secondly, because if he could 
trace the trend of the shore, he would perhaps be able to 
put together a mental map of the country, and so assure 
himself of the right route to pursue when he started for 
Thyma Castle. 

His guides took him directly south, and in three 
marches (three days) brought him to the strand. This 
journey was not in a straight line ; they considered it was 
about five-and-thirty or forty miles to the sea, but the 
country was covered with almost impenetrable forests, 
which compelled a circuitous path. They had also to 
avoid a great ridge of hills, and to slip through a pass or 
river valley, because these hills were frequently traversed 
by the gipsies, who were said, indeed, to travel along them 
for hundreds of miles. Through the river valley, there- 
fore, which wound between the hills, they approached the 
sea, so much on a level with it that Felix did not catch a 
distant glimpse. 



FOR AURORA 307 

In the afternoon of the third day they heard a low 
murmur, and soon afterwards came out from the forest 
itself upon a wide bed of shingle, thinly bordered with 
scattered bushes on the inland side. Climbing over this, 
Felix saw the green line of the sea rise and extend itself 
on either hand ; in the glory of the scene he forgot his 
anxieties and his hopes, they fell from him together, leav- 
ing the mind alone with itself and love. For the memory 
of Aurora rendered the beauty before him still more 
beautiful ; love, like the sunshine, threw a glamour over 
the waves. His old and highest thoughts returned to him 
in all their strength. He must follow them, he could not 
help himself. Standing where the foam came nearly to 
his feet, the resolution to pursue his aspirations took pos- 
session of him as strong as the sea. When he turned 
irom it, he said to himself, " This is the first step home- 
wards to her ; this is the first step of my renewed labour." 
To fulfil his love and his ambition was one and the same 
thing. He must see her, and then again endeavour with 
all his abilities to make himself a position which she 
could share. 

Towards the evening, leaving his escort, he partly 
ascended the nearest slope of the hills to ascertain more 
perfectly than was possible at a lower level the direction 
in which the shore trended. It was nearly east and west, 
and as the shore of the inland Lake ran west, it appeared 
that between them there was a broad belt of forest. 
Through this he must pass, and he thought if he con- 
tinued due west he should cross an imaginary line drawn 

20 — 2 



3o8 AFTER LONDON 

south from his own home through Thyma Castle ; then 
by turning to the north he should presently reach that 
settlement. But when he should cross this line, how 
many days' travelling it would need to reach it, was a 
matter of conjecture, and he must be guided by circum- 
stances, the appearance of the country, and his hunter's 
instinct. 

On the way back to Wolfstead Felix was occupied in 
considering how he could leave his friends, and yet be 
able to return to them and resume his position. His 
general idea was to build a fortified house or castle at the 
spot which had so pleased him, and to bring Aurora to it. 
He could then devote himself to increasing and con- 
solidating his rule over these people, and perhaps in time 
organize a kingdom. But without Aurora the time it 
would require would be unendurable ; by some means he 
must bring her. The whole day long as he walked he 
thought and thought, trying to discover some means by 
which he could accomplish these things ; yet the more he 
considered the more difficult they appeared to him. There 
seemed no plan that promised success ; all he could do 
would be to risk the attempt. 

But two days after returning from the sea it chanced 
towards the afternoon he fell asleep, and on awaking 
found his mind full of ideas which he felt sure would 
succeed if anything would. The question had solved itself 
during sleep ; the mind, like a wearied limb, strained 
by too much effort, had recovered its elasticity and 
freshness, and he saw clearly what he ought to do. 



FOR AURORA 309 

He convened an assembly of the chief men of the 
nearest tribes, and addressed them in the circular fort. 
He asked them if they could place sufficient confidence in 
him to assist him in carrying out certain plans, although he 
should not be able to altogether disclose the object he had 
in view. 

They replied as one man that they had perfect con- 
fidence in him, and would implicitly obey. 

He then said that the first thing he wished was the 
clearing of the land by the river in order that he might 
erect a fortified dwelling suitable to his position as their 
Leader in war. Next he desired their permission to leave 
them for two months, at the end of which he would 
return. He could not at that time explain his reasons, 
but until this journey had been made he could not finally 
settle among them. 

To this announcement they listened in profound silence. 
It was evident that they disliked his leaving them, yet did 
not wish to seem distrustful by expressing the feeling. 

Thirdly, he continued, he wanted them to clear a path 
through the forest, commencing at Anker's Gate and 
proceeding exactly west. The track to be thirty yards 
wide, in order that the undergrowth might not encroach 
upon it, and to be carried on straight to the westward 
until his return. The distance to which this path was 
cleared he should take as the measure of their loyalty to 
him. 

They immediately promised to fulfil this desire, but 
added that there was no necessity to wait till he left them, 



310 AFTER LONDON 

it should be commenced the very next morning. To his 
reiterated request for leave of absence they preserved an 
ominous silence, and as he had no more to say, the 
assembly then broke up. 

It was afternoon, and Felix, as he watched the 
departing chiefs, reflected that these men would certainljr 
set a watch upon him to prevent his escape. Without 
another moment's delay he entered his hut, and took from 
their hiding-place the diamond bracelet, the turquoise 
ring, and other presents for Aurora. He also secured some 
provisions, and put two spare bowstrings in his pocket. 
His bow of course he carried. 

Telling the people about that he was going to the next 
settlement, Bedeston, and was anxious to overtake the 
chief from that place who had attended the assembly, he 
started. So soon as he knew he could not be seen from 
the settlement he quitted the trail, and made a wide 
circuit till he faced westwards. Anker's Gate was a small 
outlying post, the most westerly from Wolfstead ; he went 
near it to get a true direction, but not sufficiently near to 
be observed. This was on the fourth of September. The 
sun was declining as he finally left the country of his 
friends, and entered the immense forest which lay between 
him and Aurora. Not only was there no track, but no 
one had ever traversed it, unless, indeed, it were Bushmen, 
who to all intents might be confused with the wild 
snimals which it contained. 

Yet his heart rose as he walked rapidly among the oaks ; 
already he saw her, he felt the welcoming touch of her 



FOR AURORA 3ii 

hand ; the danger of Bushman or gipsy was as nothing. 
The forest at the commencement consisted chiefly of oaks, 
trees which do not grow close together, and so permitted 
of quick walking. Felix pushed on, absorbed in thought. 
The sun sank ; still onward ; and as the dusk fell he was 
still moving rapidly westwards. 



THE END. 



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Westbrook, Frank. Anzac and After, in Verse and 
Song. 

Wood, Lawson. Splinters ! Paper Covers. 

IS. 3d. net. 
Novels. Paper Covers. 
Baynton, Barbara. Cobbers. 

Bone, D. W. The Brassbounder. 

Davies, E. The Widow's Necklace. A 

Detective Tale. 

Drake, Maurice. Wrack. A Tale of the Sea. 

Glyn, Elinor. Beyond the Rocks. 

Guinevere's Lover (The Sequence). 

Halcvone. 

The Reason Why. 

'■ The Reflections of Ambrosine. 

The Visits of Elizabeth. 

The Vicissitudes of Evangeline. 

When the Hour Came (His Hour). 

Elizabeth visits America. 

The Man and the Moment. 

Goddard, Charles, and Dicky, Paul. The 

Misleading Lady. 

Graham, R. B. Cunninghame. Scottish 

Stories. 

Hudson, W. H. South American Sketches. 

Machen, Arthur. The Terror. 

Margerison, John. The Navy's Way. 

Travers, John. Sahib Log. An Anglo-Indian 

Tale. 

Vaughan, Owen. Old Fireproof. 



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